Dispatches from the living amongst journalism's walking dead

Accuracy and accountability checklist for social media

Way back in the early fall, when the Online News Association conference was going on here in D.C., Craig Silverman of Regret the Error did a great accuracy workshop in conjunction with TBD. He created an accuracy checklist aimed at helping reporters avoid common errors. My boss, Steve Buttry, expanded on Silverman’s list at his own blog a couple of weeks ago. This checklist approach inspired me to think of ways to avoid accuracy and reporting errors in my own little corner of the journalism world.

In the rapid-fire world of social media, it’s easy for a journalist or news organization to make mistakes. Sometimes, these things happen in the heat of the moment, but more often than not the errors seem to stem from a widespread belief amongst journalists that Twitter carries less need for accuracy and accountability than the full-story medium. Recent events have told us otherwise.

I believe there is an ever-increasing need for accuracy and accountability in how we as journalists use social media. This inspired me to start my own accuracy checklist for the TBD staff, but I thought it may be better to share with a larger audience. Feel free to add your notes and additions in the comments. I consider this a work in progress.

Accuracy Checklist for Social Media

Before tweeting:

  • How do I know this information?
  • Is this information independently confirmed? Should it be first?
  • Do I know the location of the news event? Check a map.
  • Will this require follow-up tweets to better explain? Do I know this story well enough to follow-up?

When tweeting:

  • Are proper names spelled correctly?
  • Does the link go to the right place? Is it shortened properly?
  • Are any Twitter handles included? Do they go to the right accounts?
  • Does this tweet have/need attribution for reported facts?
  • Does this tweet need a hat tip for another Twitter account/news outlet who first alerted you to the info?
  • Is a location included/necessary?
  • Is this tweet short enough to be easily re-tweeted?
  • Check to see if auto-correct changed the text intended.
  • Check your shorthand and contractions to make sure they make sense.

When re-tweeting:

  • Is it clear why I want to share this tweet, or does it need context?
  • Is this tweet reporting heretofore unknown information?
  • If so, is this source reliable enough to throw your name behind?
  • Is the original tweet written clearly enough to be passed on from me?
  • Do I know this account? Research them to verify it.

When sharing on Facebook:

  • Is the image that shows up in my link preview actually connected to the story?
  • Is the post text and headline reflective of the content of the story?
  • Are any tagged users in images/posts the correct people?

What’s missing here? Let me know. eventually, I’ll make this look spiffy and get it online as a lovely printable document.


Link roundup: Demographics, Quora, Instagram and news from old media


Link roundup: Twitter news, tech tools and a shameless plug


  1. This is a great idea. We could have used these guidelines before the Tucson shootings.

  2. Thanks for this. I’ve book marked this page and plan to print out the guidelines. I’ll also use them with students.

  3. Fabulous! In fact, so fabulous that I would LOVE to use this, with proper citation, in a textbook, The Principles of American Journalism, I am writing…interested?

    Charles Davis
    Missouri School of Journalism

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