Aretha Franklin is alive, and Twitter is growing up.

By Kevin Kelleher
December 28, 2010

USA/First Charlie Sheen died a tragic if imaginary death in a snowboarding accident. Now poor Aretha Franklin is being mourned on Twitter for a demise that has yet to happen.

It’s all such sad news – not so much for the celebrities in question (after all, no publicity is bad publicity, even if it’s a press release announcing you are alive). But for Twitter and its credibility as a 21st Century news platform.

Twitter, like any web technology, is a double-edged blade. Early on, it drew praise by allowing people to jointly cover breaking news such as the terrorist attacks in Mumbai in November 2008 and violent protests in Iran in the summer of 2009.

But crowdsourced coverage of fresh news can also lead to the dissemination of misinformation. The false reports of celebrity deaths may be the result of hoaxes (as the Sheen tweets seemed to be) or of the garbling of a legitimate news (Franklin’s sobriquet “The Queen of Soul” is similar to that of Teena Marie, the “Ivory Queen of Soul” who passed away Sunday). But they show the dangers of crowdsourcing news.

These kinds of mishaps seem to be a rite of passage for emerging news platforms. When online news sites set up shop in the mid-90s, they had to fight to win credibility, just as many early bloggers did when they broke news. The fake-celebrity-death meme will probably continue until Twitter posters learn to become more wary of hoaxes and apply a lesson from Reporting 101 – there is no substitute for old-fashioned reporting.

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Greeting! World sure Is A blessing that God”Isn”t like Man Woman God! Is love,kind,compassionate,long suffering,slow 2 anger’plentiful In grace And mercy,How could twitter allow something of that magnitude to come 2 the forefront of this Media Forum,for the wholeworld 2 see And make a Mockery of A famous Woman like that what? has she done 2 warrant so harsh! and ill treatment this is A down right disgace,not only 2 her and her family,but also her fans,and well wishers, like myself,2 put her in the grave and rack coal’s over her before checking with her agent or news outlets is A dis-service 2 those of us that love her not of her Singing ability,but because she be-longs 2 God first and foremost she not ,Going anywhere-unless the Master of the Universe,say so he is First Commander and Chief and the keeper of her destiny(soul)Life she not going any place unless God allow’s Many have been praying! Including my self I have been praying ever since the New hit the Air-waves And I have been on A 5day fast ever since December 13,2010 and Counting,the prayers of the righteous One availeth Much. stay encourage Ms.Aretha Franklin your Siser-n-Christ Jesus” God Is able 2 do anything but fell. Pastor,j.Ward

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