Getting it right: Journalists and Twitter

Two UK newsmedia outlets this week updated their Twitter policies for reporters, banning much activity many believe make the social media site helpful for interacting and gaining followers and, in turn, news consumers.
Sky News now bans retweeting “information posted by other journalists or people on Twitter.” Journalists must “always pass breaking news lines to the news desk before posting.” The BBC, meanwhile, said that journalists may “transmit text simultaneously to our newsroom systems and to their own Twitter accounts.” However, “our first priority remains ensuring that important information reaches BBC colleagues, and thus all our audiences, as quickly as possible – and certainly not after it reaches Twitter.”

This prompted MediaGuardian’s Jonathan Haynes to write that when it comes to breaking news, and there isn’t a race to be first with the information, Twitter should be embraced – not put on hold.

“What kind of competitive advantage are the BBC and Sky in danger of giving up? Here’s an example from this week: when Fabio Capello resigned as England manager, Martyn Ziegler (@MartynZiegler), the Press Association’s chief sports reporter, broke the story on Twitter just a few seconds before the FA tweeted it. If a Sky News or BBC journalist had that story first they might have been busy letting their news desk know about it – while everyone else was reading it on Twitter,” he pointed out.

Nicola Peate, social media manager for Rippleffect, told The Drum she believes that although a journalist must be completely sure of a tweet’s accuracy, social media has made the news business even more competitive. “Retweeting can often be the fastest way of breaking a story and allows news organisations to be instantly in on the action,” she stated.

Allan Barr, head of digital and social media at The BIG Partnership, told The Drum he thinks the new guidelines at Sky are a big step backward. “In today’s media landscape, the ability for journalists to share credible news via popular social media channels like Twitter has never been more important.”

In November last year, The Associated Press released new guidelines on retweeting:

“Retweets, like tweets, should not be written in a way that looks like you’re expressing a personal opinion on the issues of the day. A retweet with no comment of your own can easily be seen as a sign of approval of what you’re relaying … These kinds of unadorned retweets must be avoided. However, we can judiciously retweet opinionated material if we make clear we’re simply reporting it, much as we would quote it in a story.”

Instead of using blanket disclaimers or lists of rules on what is and is not allowed on Twitter, journalists should be allowed to make a decision on a case-by-case basis, Poynter’s Jeff Sonderman wrote in response to the AP’s new rules.

All the various rules and guidelines at news outlets lead to “a lot of confusion and fear that a ‘mistweet’ could cost journalists their credibility or their jobs. That is a shame, because Twitter is a vibrant network for real-time information, and journalists should participate fully in it. The retweet is the network’s method of spreading information, and journalists should understand how it works.”

Image: TechCrunch
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