This week, the American Society of News Editors released what has become a somewhat controversial paper on social media best practices for newsrooms.
The paper, which was researched and written by James Hohmann of Politico for the ASNE Ethics and Values Committee, addresses a lot of social media issues, mostly ethical, including:
• Community perceptions
One of the more controversial items has to with the paper's comments on not breaking news on Twitter. Read what Steve Buttry has to say about the issue.
The paper says "in a news climate that values speed, there are great temptations and added incentives to break news on Twitter or Facebook
instead of waiting for it to move through the editorial pipeline. This undercuts one of the main values of social media for news organizations, which is to drive traffic and increase the reach of high-quality journalism."
The paper goes on to say that if a reporter is covering an event that is being televised or has lots of competition, then it's OK to Tweet it.
Here's GateHouse Media's view on the topic.
1. If a reporter is on the scene of a breaking news event and they have witnessed or have been able to confirm news, they should post it to Twitter.
The amount of time lost would be considerable if they channeled it through their website. They would have to call the newspaper, get someone on the phone, give them the information and then hope that individual at that minute goes to the website and posts the content. That could be a 15-minute process in some newsrooms. Posting the content directly to Twitter at least gets it out, and maybe even gets on your site if you have a Twitter feed on your site. It would be acceptable to go ahead and call the newsroom and get it posted on your site, once a reporter has the content out on Twitter.
2. If a reporter is working the story from their desk, then they should get it on their website first. This really comes down to speed. Because a reporter would be sitting in front of their computer, the amount of time it would take them to post to Twitter is about the same time commitment it would take to post to their website. So, post to your site, get a link and Tweet it out. Time is important and so is what a reporter can offer
through witnessing something. Tweets are great when a reporter can offer details and color they are experiencing. You're not going to get that from
your desk, so that's why posting to your website first is best in that case, making sure that you will get traffic when you Tweet it, because you will have a link.
3. The ASNE report notes that if you are covering an event that other competitors are, then it's OK to Tweet the content before it gets on your
site. Again, this really comes down to where you can be faster and most efficient.
4. If a reporter is covering a Friday night high school football game, posting the score or Tweeting a quote from the coach on the reporter's way
back to the newsroom makes sense. Calling a newsroom to get that up on the site on a Friday night, is not realistic, in most small newsrooms.
5. Reporters should consider though how, even in their Tweets, they can promote back to their site or their Twitter accounts. For example, if you're
covering a downtown fire and you have confirmation on the scene, you could do something like this "Downtown candy shop on fire, a dozen firefighters on the scene. More details to follow. Photos coming to our site.
While I covered just Twitter in this post, because that's what the ASNE paper addressed, my comments above also would have application for Facebook.
Twitter is a hugely important tool for newsrooms to use. It's lame to follow hard and fast rules with social tools, because the specific news you're covering and your newsroom structure and staffing, are all factors that will dictate how you treat your Twitter account and website.
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