To tweet or not to tweet the breaking news?

February 8, 2012 at 09:26



The Guardian has reported that Sky News operations in the UK has unveiled a new social media guideline that includes restrictions on what is and isn’t tweeted. See it here.

The use of social media by journalists remains a thorn in the side for many newsroom executives who are yet to fully understand the reach and cultural shift that comes with being in a community on platforms such as Twitter and Facebook. Many newsrooms have introduced social media guidelines but many more have not!

The ABC in Australia sums up its social media policy in four points:
Do not mix the professional and the personal in ways likely to bring the ABC into disrepute.
Do not undermine your effectiveness at work.
Do not imply ABC endorsement of your personal views.
Do not disclose confidential information obtained through work.

It’s not a bad list, but obviously so much of it is open to interpretation. Is breaking news on Twitter undermining a reporter’s effectiveness at work? It depends whether Twitter is considered an extension of the reporter’s channels?

A journalist with a strong social media presence often has audiences– or becomes part of communities– that can

Picture: Keiyac on Flickr

swell to many thousands. There’s a relationship of trust and openness that forms on Twitter and Facebook, but as far as many newsrooms are concerned, the reporter answers only to the organisation. The newsroom needs to control content in order to measure it and sell it.

Social media isn’t the enemy. Smart online newsrooms have used Facebook in particular to drive audiences to mass-media publications and broadcasts. That’s the smart way to treat social media.
It’s also crucial to acknowledge that many stories now depend on the contribution of communities online via tips, photos and the sharing of documents.
Social Media guidelines in newsrooms can take many shapes and sizes, and they’re a good way to help journalists understand how to use the platforms to maximum effect– but they can’t be expected to shut off the relationship journalists have with the online community.

A journalist considers his or her treatment of sources and integrity in reporting as intrinsic value that can be taken from employer to employer; a presence in social media and an active role in Twitter and Facebook should now be considered just as valuable.

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