From the desk of Elaine Schoch...
Late Friday afternoon The Washington Post released a social media policy to the staff at-large aimed at staffers’ use of “individual accounts on online social networks, when used for reporting and for personal use.” This isn’t the first time a business or news outlet has put out a social media policy, nor will it be the last.
With social media co-mingling our personal and professional worlds like never before, we have to be extremely mindful of our online behavior so it’s no surprise to see more businesses and news outlets do this. (The FCC is on its way to release rules and regulations for bloggers so this is yet another step in trying to manage transparency and credibility.) Although, it does concern me that news outlets particularly are not encouraging social channels more. The way The Washington Post’s memo reads it sounds more discouraging – i.e. don’t use social media channels or you might get in trouble. (It might also break a lot of stories such as ABC News reporter @TerryMoran tweeting about President Obama saying Kanya West was a “jack***” or ABC's Senior White House Correspondent @JakeTapper tweeting on Bill Clinton's departure to North Korea to help secure the release of two American journalists. Does this help or hurt the news outlet?)
Businesses – particularly news outlets – need to teach their employees how to use Twitter and other social channels. (Your employees are your best brand ambassadors!) For reporters, Twitter specifically can be an essential tool to build online brand recognition, position your news outlet as a leader by sharing breaking news, gather sources and information, not to mention a FREE way to drive traffic back to the website which helps with ad revenue. If I recall, this added revenue (albeit small) might help the struggling newspaper industry. Just a thought...
Here are a few excerpts from the policy, which was NOT made available until Sunday. Transparency anyone? Thanks to Paidcontent.org for getting/listing the policy in its entirety.
“When using these networks, nothing we do must call into question the impartiality of our news judgment. We never abandon the guidelines that govern the separation of news from opinion, the importance of fact and objectivity, the appropriate use of language and tone, and other hallmarks of our brand of journalism.”
“What you do on social networks should be presumed to be publicly available to anyone, even if you have created a private account. It is possible to use privacy controls online to limit access to sensitive information. But such controls are only a deterrent, not an absolute insulator. Reality is simple: If you don’t want something to be found online, don’t put it there.”
“Post journalists must refrain from writing, tweeting or posting anything – including photographs or video – that could be perceived as reflecting political racial, sexist, religious or other bias or favoritism that could be used to tarnish our journalistic credibility.”