Wednesday morning, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution sent out a tweet linking to a story it had written on a lottery winner entitled “$1 million lottery ticket sold in Lithia Springs.” The tweet said something much different, though, and it was only a matter of time before it went viral. 

Four hours later, AJC apologized and assured readers that this would not be repeated in the future, but I’m left wondering, why was this sent out in the first place?

Clever, intriguing tweets can promote clicking on links, as we all know. As Poynter speculated, this could very well have been a failed attempt to tie-in news to a historic allusion but that the “40 acres and a mule” reference was incorrectly attributed to a man who shared his name with the lottery winner. It’s obvious the tweeter needs to be refreshed on his or her history but a lesson in sensibility should come next. 

First of all, it’s not the most recognizable reference. There was a high probability it would be lost on some of the well-educated and would lose any cleverness or effectiveness. Second of all, that is a reference with strong emotion ties and connotations. Some things shouldn’t be casually tossed out to tease a light-hearted news story. This is one of those things. Third of all, this was sent out from the paper’s official account. Not that having it come from a staff member would’ve been any better, but sending it from @AJC reflects extremely poorly on the paper. Even now the discussion is “did you see what AJC sent out?” I don’t think anyone pins this on everyone at the outlet, but it does raise questions about who they’ve entrusted with their social media. 

These types of gaffs are common place in the digital age and the best way to avoid them is to ensure that the person sending out messages from organization social media accounts understands best practices.