The explosion of Twitter and Facebook use by newspapers this spring has sparked a mixed bag of reaction from editors and other newsroom leaders over how to control — or not control — the use by their staffs.
The Wall Street Journal raised attention this week when it expanded its conduct guidelines to include a whole host of online-related restrictions, including warnings not to “friend” confidential sources or get into Web-related arguments with critics. Others have issued guidelines.
But not everyone is laying down the law on Twitter, say editors. Some want staffers to have a casual, open approach, while others admit they aren’t sure how to police the social media outlets and still allow them to be useful. “I have asked people to use common sense and respect the workplace and assume whatever they tweet will be tied to the paper,” said Bill Keller, executive editor of The New York Times, who started tweeting (sparingly) himself just last week. “Even when they are tweeting personal information to their followers, they are still representing the New York Times.”
Earlier this week, Keller held his semi-annual meeting with staffers, in which he says he “made a point of asking people to apply common sense whether it is a public speech, a radio appearance or anything like Twitter — use their noggin,” he recalls. But he said no specific rules have been added for Twitter and Facebook, although he acknowledged staff workshops have been held to teach reporters the best use of Twitter.
The New York Times also had a bit of an internal controversy when several reporters at a Monday meeting posted items about it on their own Twitter accounts.
The New York Observer reports that the leaking tweets led to several online stories at Gawker and The Guardian. Later, at Keller’s meeting, he reportedly brought up the issue, noting a need for a “zone of trust” and less spreading of such internal events via tweets.