Something odd happened today. Just before 2pm, I saw a curious tweet pop up on my dashboard from one of our editors.
Certain to be the biggest story of the day, I prepared myself to break the news from our branded accounts. However, before retweeting Sarah, I took a second to verify its accuracy. I checked WashingtonPost.com for the story. Nothing. I checked @WashingtonPost on Twitter. Also nothing. I even bounced around on the Bloomberg wire for a bit. Still, to no avail. Of course, that didn’t stop Sarah’s tweet from quickly spreading across the Twittersphere.
To further confuse the issue, Washington Post writer Aaron Blake issued this tweet:
Twenty minutes later, after a dozen other publications had reported the news, the Post confirmed that Santorum was, indeed, suspending his campaign. So what happened?
At 1:42 PM a Post story hit the Bloomberg wire (with whom the Post partners with). Bloomberg spokeman Ty Trippet issued this statement amidst the confusion:
So why did the Post deny breaking a story of such scale? Quite simply, it wasn’t meant to be seen. The story was in fact a draft, embargoed until confirmed. Unfortunately (but fortunately for Bloomberg) the post had been inadvertently send to our feed. A Washington Post spokesperson issued this statement after the events had blown over:
“The draft story was not intended to be published until we confirmed that Santorum was suspending his campaign. The draft was inadvertently sent to Bloomberg, with whom The Post has a partnership, through an automated feed. It was not published on our Web site until the news had been confirmed.”
There you have it. A glimpse of the (slightly terrifying) power of social media. News spreads fast, even when it hasn’t been confirmed. While this case seemed to work itself out, the tone of this post might be entirely different had the report been false. It serves as an excellent reminder to always err on the side of caution when it comes to reporting news on social media. As Bloomberg’s food critic Ryan Sutton so eloquently put it: