We've Got Hollywood Covered

The Media's New Rules for Twitter

A sample of guidelines issued by the New York Times, Washington Post and others.

Tweet this.

In the wake of the Washington Post’s muzzling of its employees’ Twitter use, the Obama “Jackass” moment and others like it, media companies are tweaking their guidelines governing their employees’ Tweets – or, at the very least, looking to clarify the rules that already exist.

BusinessWeek and Politico.com are among those working on new rules for Twitter. Other companies, like the Post and ESPN, already have them.

Check out the feature story I wrote on the subject here.

Below I’ve assembled a small selection of some Twitter rules being ushered in by news organizations:

Washington Post: “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.”

ESPN: “The first and only priority is to serve ESPN sanctioned efforts, including sports news, information and content … Prior to engaging in any form of social networking dealing with sports, you must receive permission from the supervisor as appointed by your department head. If ESPN.com opts not to post sports related social media content created by ESPN talent, you are not permitted to report, speculate, discuss or give any opinions on sports related topics or personalities on your personal platforms. … If you wouldn’t say it on the air or write it in your column, don’t tweet it.”

Politico: “In essence, Politico employees should behave no differently on Twitter than they would in any other professional setting. All of our standards and expectations for Politico employees apply to their use of Twitter.”

BBC: "If a blog makes it clear that the author works for the BBC, it should include a simple and visible disclaimer such as 'these are my personal views and not those of the BBC.' Unless there are specific concerns about the nature of their role (for instance because they are a member of editorial staff), staff members are free to talk about BBC programmes and content on their blogs. If in doubt, staff members should consult their line manager. Personal blogs and websites should not reveal confidential information about the BBC. This might include aspects of BBC policy or details of internal BBC discussions."

New York Times: “Personal blogs and 'tweets' represent you to the outside world just as much as an 800-word article does.  If you have or are getting a Facebook page, leave blank the section that asks about your political views, in accordance with the Ethical Journalism admonition to do nothing that might cast doubt on your or The Times’s political impartiality in reporting the news.  Remember that although you might get useful leads by joining a group on one of these sites, it will appear on your page, connoting that you ‘joined’ it — potentially complicated if it is a political group, or a controversial group. Be careful not to write anything on a blog or a personal Web page that you could not write in The Times — don’t editorialize, for instance, if you work for the News Department.  Anything you post online can and might be publicly disseminated, and can be twisted to be used against you by those who wish you or The Times ill — whether it’s text, photographs, or video. That includes things you recommend on TimesPeople or articles you post to Facebook and Digg, content you share with friends on MySpace, and articles you recommend through TimesPeople.  It can also include things posted by outside parties to your Facebook page, so keep an eye on what appears there.  Just remember that we are always under scrutiny by magnifying glass and that the possibilities of digital distortion are virtually unlimited, so always ask yourself, could this be deliberately misconstrued or misunderstood by somebody who wants to make me look bad?”

More samples, including those from companies outside the media bubble, can be found in this handy database here.