Now, we know the Breaking News Team is ever vigilant about Twitter, but sometimes it takes a trained eye to spot the nugget of non-truth that really makes breaking news.
It happened this way according to Pam McLoughlin: On April 1, the “ever vigilant” Christine Tansey noticed a tweet from Luther (who learned it from Mike Lawlor) that said state Rep. Steve Dargan had been hospitalized after a car accident.
Now, as Dargan is a big figure in these parts – especially West Haven – Pam told reporter Bridget Albert to start making calls, who then learned directly from Lawlor, shown below, that it was an April Fools joke and that Dargan was fond of such funniness (and apparently Dargan had sent a text to 1,000 of his closest friends saying he had been in an accident.)
“Lawlor, knowing it was an April Fools joke, tweeted it,” Pam explained.
Then, with the help of this social media coup, good journalism kicked in when Pam saw this had all the makings of an attention-getting story: higher-ups running the government doing such things.
Plus, Pam said “it fit in with the ‘holiday.’” So Pam tweeted from @mcpamskids that this was a joke and not a funny one and got four paragraphs of story together to post as reporter finished her piece, she said. Christine tweeted these graphs from @nhregister and when the full story was done put it on Facebook.
With that, the story was picked up by AP and in no time goes national. Then feedback flowed in through Twitter and Facebook, Pam said, “colorful comments of outrage,” such as:
@thekat0711 tweeted: “@nhregister @MikeLawlor good job. Now every news story i read today I’ll assume is a joke. I’ll laugh at the obits.”
@AdeleHouston tweeted bluntly: “@LutherTurmelle @MikeLawlor – accident reports are not funny.”
Will Tower @willtower tweeted: “Good one, Mike. @nhregister: Report by @MikeLawlor that “Rep. Dargan in hospital following accident” is a hoax…an “April Fools joke”
State Rep. Themis Klarides, R-Derby, tweeted: “So, a state rep’s April Fool’s Day joke was that he was in an accident and hospitalized? Okay …”
@RosieCRN tweeted: “@nhregister @mikelawlor pretty lousy joke for those of us that know him and saw it I might add.”
This outrage led to Lawlor apologizing through Twitter!
Christine thought about doing a Storify, but there weren’t quite enough tweets, so instead she made a graphically pleasing and eye-catching display of Lawlor’s original Tweet and apology Tweet, Pam reports.
Pam said she also put the public’s tweets and Facebook comments in the story. “It was one time that we got good stuff that way!”
“This was all technology, social media and good old-fashioned news judgment coming together to make a unique story! ” Pam said. “Afterwards, Lawlor lamented that he had put the original tweet on his ‘private’ Twitter account – discovering the hard way that Twitter isn’t private – especially with 100 journalists following you.”
Maybe these officials need a digital ninja class, Pam suggested.