RT @AP: journalists must refrain from opinion in tweets


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Would this be okay for an AP employee?

The Associated Press has issued some guidelines for its employees who use social media (.pdf). It remains to be seen whether these guidelines will eventually become an industry standard the way the AP Stylebook has, but I hope not. It will quash a lot of interesting commentary on twitter if it does. One interesting point is that the guidelines apply to all AP employees regardless of job title or function.

For its employees, the AP social media guidelines might seem a little heavy-handed. While encouraging employees to use social media, the AP has stringent guidelines that might make Twitter and Facebook meaningless for personal interaction.

Employees must identify themselves as being from the AP if they are using the networks for work in any way….and employees also should avoid including political affiliations in their profiles and steer clear of making any postings that express political views or take stands on contentious issues.Employees should be mindful that any personal information they disclose about themselves or colleagues may be linked to the AP’s name. That’s true even if staffers restrict their pages to viewing only by friends. It’s not just like uttering a comment over a beer with your friends: It’s all too easy for someone to copy material out of restricted pages and redirect it elsewhere for wider viewing. As multitudes of people have learned all too well, virtually nothing is truly private on the Internet.

It’s a good idea to monitor your profile page to make sure material posted by others doesn’t violate AP standards; any such material should be deleted.

Sometimes AP staffers ask if they’re free to comment in social media on matters like sports and entertainment. The answer is yes, with a couple of reasonable exceptions: First, trash-talking about anyone (or team or company or celebrity) reflects badly on staffers and the AP….

No, reporting on the Kardashians in any manner reflects poorly upon a news organizations. No one takes a political reporter’s opinion of the Braves’ opponent to be AP policy. One of the guidelines seems likely to cause some problems in following stories as they occur:

AP employees must refrain from declaring their views on contentious public issues in any public forum and must not take part in demonstrations in support of causes or movements. This includes liking and following pages and groups that are associated with these causes or movements. [emphasis added]

[S]ince friending and “liking” political candidates or causes may create a perception that AP staffers are truly their advocates, staffers should avoid this practice unless they have a true reporting reason for it. If we must friend or “like,” we should avoid interacting with newsmakers on their public pages – for instance, commenting on their posts.

[I have an editorial issue with their use of “since” as I was taught that word should be used only where it indicates the passage of time not just causation. Use “because” to indicate causation.]

Some newsworthy groups don’t issue press releases, they operate mainly by social media; OccupyAtlanta uses Twitter and Facebook to coordinate many of its group actions. If you like their page or follow their twitter feed, it allows you to follow developments more conveniently and in real-time. Losing this ability will make it difficult to keep tabs on what’s happening.

Governor Nathan Deal’s office uses Twitter to distribute press information and public announcements. Following those accounts is legitimate news-gathering, and I wouldn’t take it to mean that a journalist supports or opposes Governor Deal personally. I certainly understand that being friends on Facebook doesn’t mean you actually like or even know the so-called friend.

Finally, the AP massacres accepted Twitter syntax in proposing guidelines for 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. [O RLY? So no snarky comments or simple “retweet now” without added commentary?]

Instead of

[email protected] smith’s policies would destroy our schools

AP prefers its employees tweet

RT Jones campaign now denouncing smith on education: @jonescampaign smith’s policies would destroy our schools

and would rewrite

[email protected] at last, a euro plan that works bit.ly/xxxxx.

into

RT big European paper praises euro plan: @dailyeuropean “at last, a euro plan that works” bit.ly/xxxxx.

I’m not sure how much clarity that adds, but it does add a significant number of characters in each case. Rather than clarifying, this guideline may deter retweeting.

The AP guidelines appear to be equal parts encouragement to use social media, human resources drivel, and stupidity management. Let’s hope they don’t spread too far.

Here’s an excerpt from the Peach Pundit Stylebook:

Note that the above does not constitute agreement with anything Icarus has ever said or will ever say. Or even that I know the guy.

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6 comments

  1. greencracker says:

    Of course reporters have opinions. And of course it is part of the job to put them aside when writing (be it ink or pixel).

    If you don’t do that … well … you’re not a reporter, you’re a pundit; very different line of work. Get over to the Editorial page, man!

  2. Herb says:

    Repress a reporter’s free speech rights? No, you don’t say! These ideas are typical of the power crazy Republicans who are running our country into the ground. It’s no longer about news reporting like it was in the 50s and 60s, no sir! It’s about news interpreting. We need reporters who will not just sit and report the news, but who will ask the tough questions and use the anchor-chair as a podium for the preservation of our society in the wake of the war on free speech, initiated by George W. Bush and the Mad Dog Republicans, and the promotion of social justice and financial security, a fundamental transformation of our system from Crony Capitalism to Great Society Socialism, if you will.

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