VTDigger’s Twitter Account Calls Gubernatorial Race Five Months Early

Well, that settles it. Phil Scott has won re-election to a fourth term as governor.

He has, according to VTDigger’s Twitter feed, which assumes that legislative Democrats will once again face Phil Scott veto threats in 2023. Here’s the entire tweet:

Yup, it’s confirmed in the text beneath the photo of the Statehouse dome as seen through autumn (?) leaves. Phil Scott, re-elected. Brenda Siegel might as well pack up her tent and head home.

Seems like a teeny-tiny breach of journalistic principle, does it not? Calling the election five months before it happens?

To be fair, the actual Digger article does not give the election to Scott. It identifies Scott as the likely winner and Siegel as a longshot candidate, which is true enough, and reports that Democrats and Republicans are basically operating under the assumption that Scott will be re-elected.

Which is sad, but not journalistically out of bounds.

The problem is not with the reportage, but with the anonymous gremlins who write Digger’s social media content. Here’s the way that process works (or at least here’s how it worked when I was there).

A reporter turns in a story and an associated image, usually a photo. The editor reviews the story, makes changes, approves the photo, and puts the edited piece into the pipeline for posting.

Then, somebody else writes the copy you see on social media. It has to be short and catchy, because it’s all about the eyeballs and clickthroughs. It should accurately reflect the content of the story. But this step is a last-minute affair, done as quickly as possible and without editorial review.

Which is not great, because far more people will see the social media post than will ever read the actual story. To them, the social media post IS the story.

This being the case, as it always is, media outlets have a responsibility to make sure their tweets and Facebook posts are held to the same standard as their content.

In reality, that isn’t happening. But it should.

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