New York Times to Tighten Rules for Reporters on Social Media

Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet says he will no longer play Twitter cop

New York Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet announced Thursday evening that the Times would be tightening up on social media policy.

Baquet made the remarks while speaking at a forum at George Washington University with Times reporter luminaries Maggie Haberman and Peter Baker in a conversation focused on covering President Donald Trump.

“I’ve spent full days policing our social media,” Baquet told moderator and media writer Jim Rutenberg, Politico reported in its morning newsletter. He added that he had personally chided individual reporters and was sick of playing traffic cop online.

Neither Baquet nor a Times spokesperson immediately responded to a request for comment from TheWrap.

“In social media posts, our journalists must not express partisan opinions, promote political views, endorse candidates, make offensive comments or do anything else that undercuts The Times’s journalistic reputation,” read one of the guidelines made public by the Times, Friday. “Our journalists should be especially mindful of appearing to take sides on issues that The Times is seeking to cover objectively.”

Other more banal points discourage journalists from tweeting their own scoops ahead of formal publications, joining secret partisan groups, or complaining about bad customer service.

“It seems inevitable that Dean Baquet ‎would examine The Times social media policy. Stories in The Times appear only after they have gone through a careful and deliberate editing process,” Leslie Wayne, a former Times reporter and adjunct professor at Columbia Journalism School told TheWrap.

“Thoughts can appear in social media in an instant and in the heat of the moment. Dean’s challenge is to come up with a policy that can reconcile the two.”

Even before Politico, news of the change began  seeping out almost immediately on social media — courtesy of at least one Times reporter, Jennifer Steinhauer

It’s been no secret that Baquet has been unhappy with his employees social media use.

In a conversation with Times Public Editor Liz Spayd in January, Baquet was blunt.

“I think sometimes reporters and editors go over the line. Or are a little ham-handed in their language in a way they wouldn’t be in the pages of The Times,” he said. “I want people to interact with readers. I want reporters and editors interacting with the wider world. But I think we sometimes cross the line, and we need to figure out a way to not do that.”

Several months after this conversation, Spayd was fired and the position of public editor abolished.