Should journalists be on Facebook, Twitter?

The Washington Post has imposed restrictions on its reporters’ and editors’ use of social networks,  including Facebook and Twitter. The Post’s ombudsman explained the policy last week.

The reaction? Swift and vehement disapproval. The Post is getting pounded from all corners of the blogosphere.

Time magazine’s James Poniewozik calls the policy “misguided.” The WashPost policy, he writes, “manages to get both social media and journalism wrong at the same time, and suggests that the newspaper is working hard to make itself as irrelevant as possible.”

The Wall Street Journal has also restricted its staff’s use of social media, which Poniewozik also criticized.

Please read these three articles and post your response. You can also read the Post’s policy in full on paidcontent.org, if you’re interested. If you find other good analyses of this issue, please post a link in the comments.

Some questions you might consider (but don’t answer them all):

  • Should magazines and newspapers limit their journalists’ activity on social networks?
  • Should reporters be tweeting?
  • Are “old-guard” media refusing to acknowledge the power and influence of social networks at their peril, as Poniewozik argues?
  • What ethical principles are at stake? (Refer to your SPJ Code of Ethics.)

Your responses should reflect that you have read the articles and are not merely responding to what classmates have said. MW class post by 8 p.m. Sunday. TR class post by 8 p.m. Monday. Late posts receive 0 points.

You should respond to at least three of your classmates’ posts. Keep your post and your comments brief. It’s a conversation, not an essay.

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142 responses to “Should journalists be on Facebook, Twitter?

  1. Journalists should be allowed to tweet. Social media like Twitter and Facebook are such great resources for journalists. Twitter provides a great option for locating sources and generating story ideas. But journalists must use these outlets to the world with caution, as they would anything else. Don’t say something that might be misinterpreted and used against you. So basically, use your head. Why do publishers need guidelines?

    James Poniewozik says that journalists can express their opinions and still be objective. I like his quote that “[objectivity] means having opinions—as intelligent, informed people do—but not subordinating your work to them. It means being truthful and fair about your area of coverage, even if doing so hurts the causes you support.”

    Poniewozik makes a great point. While journalists should have the right to voice their opinions about the stories they cover, if someone misconstrues what is said, they must work twice as hard to prove they are not biased.

    • I always have a hard time with the ‘biased reporting’ debate. Yes, news should be fair an accurate, but it’s being written and reported by human beings incapable of doffing their opinions. I don’t think unbiased reporting is possible.

      That said, I think it’s going to be hard in the social media age to muzzle opinions. It might even be malicious–and definitely dehumanizing–to try.

      • I agree with you Riane. I think it could get interesting in the future to see how public opinion is handled on social media sites. You hear about prior restraint in print, but I wonder if we will ever see a case of prior restraint on social media sites. Maybe there has been already, I don’t know. But it is interesting to think about.

      • This is my own respone to my previous post. It got me thinking. I don’t think the government will ever be able to stop something from being published on social media sites. Just because of how immediate it all is, I don’t think it will be possible. However, I wonder if there will be controversial cases that come out of something someone writes on social media sites that they might want to remove.

      • Agreed. There is no way to stifle opinions. Reporters are sometimes the most knowledgeable of both sides and therefore it is sometimes interesting and educational to hear their opinion. I think there is always a place for opinions, it is just going to be difficult to sort out where that place is with now with social media.

    • I think the concept that confuses me about this policy itself is where they will draw the line. How do you determine what could or could not be perceived as “reflecting political racial, sexist, religious or other bias or favoritism that could be used to tarnish our journalistic credibility”?

      In my opinion, that will be the Post’s greatest challenge in enforcing this policy.

  2. Of course journalists should be allowed to tweet, write on Facebook, or use any social media they want. It seems absolutely insane to deny a journalist such a valuable tool of self-promotion – especially one that would undoubtedly increase the number of eyes on a story for the publication that the reporter works for.

    Maybe it’s because I’ve grown up with these tools, or because they are being forced down my throat at every turn as The Next Big Thing in Journalism, but I have absolutely no problem with a journalist expressing an opinion.

    Everyone has opinions, as Poniewozik points out. In fact, I wouldn’t trust someone who didn’t. As he says so bluntly, “any person who immersed him or herself in a vital, contentious subject all day and formed no opinion about it whatsoever would be an idiot, and you do not want to get your news from idiots.”

    • I completely agree, and your middle paragraph made me chuckle. 🙂 Another thought to ponder: Do we even want to “follow” these professional journalists if they don’t promote themselves?

      Are they allowed to tweet about their dog’s backyard funeral, or is that chock full of opinion (AKA: the antichrist)? Personally, I think people want to know their reporter’s opinions, especially if they are writing controversial pieces.

      If these reporters don’t step up to the plate and defend one side of an argument, or promote an article at ALL, what’s the point of the Post even having social media? Really?

      • You’re right: social media is essential to promotion. It’s also got potential to polarize readers, and whether that can be attributed to a generational mindset, understanding of social media, depth of knowledge on the issue, failure to cater to the popular opinion, etc. is up in the air.

      • I definitely agree with you. That is the reason most people follow journalists, is to here their side of the story etc. We want to hear their opinions!

    • I also agree that social media is critical for promotion. I think people are going to be more willing to read stories written by reporters that they feel they know in some way or another. I think by allowing people to follow them on places like Twitter and Facebook, reporters could begin to build a personal trust between themselves and readers.

      • Lucas McMillan

        Emily, you raise a good point about personal trust built between a reader and a reporter. By reading a reporter in a more personal setting, like Twitter or Facebook, it’s pulling back the proverbial curtain. It makes them seem more human, and thus more trustworthy.

    • Going off your point about promotion, I think this is a great part of social media when it comes to journalism. It encourages people to be excited and ready to read news. Social media is something that can save journalism because it is a tool that readers can use to get the news quickly and also serves as a tool for finding accuracy.

      • I agree Jack – great point. Personally, before the rise of social media and people linking webpages to things, I was not too excited about news. Now, through Twitter, Facebook, and other social media, I find articles that are compelling. Then, I find more through those articles and become more educated as a person and a journalist.

        Like you said, Jack, these social media can be utilized to find accuracy. Our job as journalists is to “seek truth,” and social media enables us to accomplish that.

    • I think it is okay for journalists to tweet their opinions, but not if it gets in the way of credible reporting. Tweeting about problems in the work place or opinions on an article they just wrote would probably not be the best use of twitter.

      • Yeah, it’s always important to keep the dirty laundry in the hamper (sorry, sleepiness breeds cheesiness). There’s a difference between sharing your opinion on something and tweeting in poor taste.

  3. “Objectivity does not mean having no opinions… Nor does it mean having opinions but hiding them. It means having opinions—as intelligent, informed people do—but not subordinating your work to them.”

    This is my favorite passage and something I wholeheartedly agree with. However, I don’t know that I completely agree with everything Poniewozik says.

    In our J54 class last year we talked about how some journalists couldn’t put signs in their front yards supporting political candidates and other related things. While this is frustrating and we journalists are some of the first to invoke our 1st Amendment rights, I understand it.

    As for tweeting, personally, I’d rather journalists didn’t flaunt their opinions on the topics they’re covering. It DOES affect the way I’ll read their work. I feel like tweeting should be a way to draw attention to other things that you’re working on. If you want to express an opinion on an issue, post a link to your blog along with the link to the breaking news story about it.

    • Ann, I understand where you’re coming from.
      When I looked up opinion in the dictionary, this came up. “Opinion: A belief or judgment that rests on grounds insufficient to produce complete certainty.”Do you think that one person can be more easily swayed by a 60 word post than by an entire 10 paragraph article? Does anyone else have an OPINION on this? (gasp.)

      I do agree, though, on your idea of a reporter also posting a link to his/her breaking news story. That’s important so that the average joe doesn’t just take the opinion at face value, sans research.
      It’s a tricky topic, and I don’t think we can ever be too cautious…oh wait.

      • maddoxnelson

        I do think one person can be swayed by a 60 word post more than an entire article. Why do you think political slogans, poetry, and jingles on television commercials are so effective?

        I think many people today expect things instantaneously. They want to know, in as few words as possible, how the new healthcare system will work or how Michael Jackson died, etc.

        My point is that people remember things that are brief and powerful. I do think twitter could be capable of significant damage if the right person reading the right audience wrote for it.

      • I also agree that someone can be swayed by a 60 word post more than an entire 10 paragraph article. I think for some people, it’s easy to stumble across something someone wrote and take it as truth. I think this could be especially true if the person who wrote it was a prominent public figure. It’s sad, but it’s true. Sometimes people will believe anything they hear or read, even if it is just a tweet.

      • I thought his quote about objectivity really struck a chord. I agree with you, I am also kind of in the middle. I think that Twitter should be used as a tool for journalists to find sources, stories, etc. It shouldn’t be exploited as a place for opinions because many people will take their opinion without reading the facts. Isn’t that why we have bloggers?

    • Honestly, I suppose it does affect the way I’ll read someone’s work, too, and I’ve just gotten better at knowing, for my own personal preference, whose Twitters I’m OK to stumble upon and whose I should steer clear of.

      • To me, that’s the key. If we can trust readers to consider their sources of information and read some pieces with a grain of salt, or at least a semi-informed mindset, then we’re golden. In that case, hey Post- mind your own beeswax.

        But is that something it’s safe for us to assume?

      • And I think that’s a great part about Twitter: you don’t HAVE to follow anyone. You are in control of what you read and can therefore find more of what you like to read. I don’t like it when people complain that reading tweets is boring because it’s just people talking about their personal lives. If you don’t want to read that, you don’t have to!

      • Holly and Ann, this is a good debate – how do we know who to trust? If we begin to trust people that have given us reliable information in the past, how do we know we can continue trusting them?

        I tend to rely on people who’ve been correct in the past, but who is to say that I’m a good judge of that?

    • I agree with you Ann, i think in a lot of cases reading reporters opinions does affect the way I read their work. It seems like posting a link to their blog after a news story would do the same thing as the tweets, though. Do you think reading their blog would be less likely to affect the way you read their news story than twitter would?

      • I think they’d be about the same, Allison.
        Like I said in my post (scroll to the bottom), the Post had a potentially good idea limiting their social media if they feel it’s necessary, but they went about it in a detrimental way.

    • Kimisha Chambers

      This sort of just popped up in my head, but what’s the difference between tweeting and blogging? Has it been officially established that for journalists tweeting is just a form of advertising to your followers that you have a new article posted, or is it another form of “blogging” your thoughts about a situation that’s happening right now.

      • I often think the same thing. I feel like blogs are difficult to decipher. For example, if I read a journalist’s blog, I’m often unsure about whether that is just the journalist’s opinion or actually fact. I think blogs blur this line. We don’t put up our same critical defenses for news stories as we do for blogs and opinions because we usually take news to be factual and true. Whereas, we seem prepared for a battle every time we begin reading an opinion or a column. But, with blogging, it seems to force us to do both simultaneously, which can be a challenge for media consumers.

      • Holly D'Anna

        I feel like depending on how it’s used, Twitter can be used to both promote your articles and to share your opinions. I think the more responsible way to use Twitter would be the first one, but I don’t think there has been an official way to use Twitter that has been publicly established.

    • I posted about a similar topic, Ann. I think that journalists just have to make certain sacrifices about how public they are about their opinions to maintain public belief in their objectivity.

      I also agree with your comment on tweeting. I guess I find that tweeting edgy or sarcastic comments totally changes my opinion about a person. Tweeting should be used for solid news, not editorializing, in my opinion.

  4. “Business and pleasure should not be mixed on services like Twitter. Common sense should prevail, but if you are in doubt about the appropriateness of a Tweet or posting, discuss it with your editor before sending.”

    Can you imagine phoning your editor before tweeting? You might as well have a muzzle to compliment free speech.

    I can understand the thought behind not mixing business with pleasure, though ruling it out seems too restrictive. Nothing’s really black and white here, but exercising discretion while using social media and going with your gut are usually two good places to start.

    Journalism is a profession that requires a trusted voice. It also requires collaboration and human elements. The pairing is a tricky one, but using social media is an effective approach to promoting and branding people, companies and products.

    Do I want to know what Sarah Palin had for a post-jog recovery snack? No, not really (sorry, Twitter). But is neat to follow writers and artists and their interactions with the professional realm and personal realm. Of course they’ll have opinions about subjects they’ve spent hours upon hours researching. Use judgement in posts, and be objective in your story. Then, if you want to state your uncensored, well-informed opinion on your personal blog, twitter or Facebook, whatever. Very few people, especially ones with hundreds and thousands of friends/followers, would carelessly post something with potential to jeopardize their own/company’s reputation, loose popularity, or make enemies.

    • Honestly, I don’t have a huge problem with publications being concerned about what their writers are tweeting, it’s kind of their prerogative, they’re employing them. If that’s what your news organization wants, good luck with your non-tweeting, unknown, boring writers. I guess I’d just say there’s a difference between having a vested interest and regulating unnecessarily.

      To me, there would be a huge difference between my editor saying, “Hey, I know you have that big piece on health care reform running tomorrow. Keep it off Twitter, you know what a hot button issue that stuff is. We don’t want people to think you’re taking sides!” and “Hey, that health care reform piece for tomorrow looks great. Make sure you promote it responsibly, you want your readers to take you seriously!”

      I think that if you’re a good journalist, you have the sense not to post something like, “A public option? That’s bullsh*t! Hey Dems- Teddy was an a**hole!” especially if you cover the health care beat. How about “Public option: really necessary? My work on this story (link) has me thinking no.”

      • maddoxnelson

        I agree with Ann — if they are being paid to produce objective news, then official Post tweets should have the approval of the Post. If that means having an editor look it over, why not? Granted, it would probably tick off some poor overworked editor, but really, it’s the same process as writing an article to put in the newspaper.

        I also think tweets could help promote the stories. Hypothetically — if a reader knew the opinion of a reporter before the reader read the story, could it help the reader to identify potential bias and draw better conclusions?

      • Lucas McMillan

        Ann, you raise an interesting point. This whole case brings to mind the classic adage about obscenity: I know it when I see it.

        I feel the same way about journalists posting tweets. There are things they can and can’t say, and there are things that will and will not offend their employers. For instance, if a reporter tweets about how good blueberry pancakes are, he’s expressing an opinion. It’s a mundane, uninteresting opinion, but it’s an opinion nonetheless. You know when you’re saying something that could offend your employer – so don’t say it.

      • I agree, but I think that opinions need to stay separated from the hard news. As far as social media goes, Twitter should be used responsibly for that reason if you are a hard news reporter. If that’s what you want to be, you know that might mean suppressing your opinion. If it is that important to express your opinion, then be a columnist or a blogger. Hard news is hard news and the reader reads it to form their own opinion.

      • I like the latter of Ann’s suggested tweets. But, sometimes it seems so rare that any person publishes things in such a rational way.

        Allison’s post exemplifies my disenchantment with social media. I wish there could be some kind of consensus on whether it was only to be used socially, or also to be used professionally. In Allison’s proposal, I don’t think it could be used professionally if it were an outlet for someone’s personal opinions.

        Even in Ann’s scenario, I don’t think I would read the writer’s story the same way if I already knew his/her opinion on the matter. Then, I’d constantly be questioning the story’s objectivity as I read.

      • Holly D'Anna

        There is definitely a huge difference between an editor controlling their reporter’s tweets and an editor suggesting to their reporter how to use Twitter to promote their articles. Journalists should have enough sense to not post anything obscene that’s on something as public and accessible as Twitter, but if editors have to look over their reporter’s tweets, that takes extra time out of their day as well. So as far as news organizations restricting tweets–it’s unnecessary. But journalists need to know what’s smart to post and what’s not.

      • Sarah Chestnut

        Last week in my J40 class, we had a speaker from an organization that dealt with Iowa flood relief. She told a story about an intern that had noticed a puddle from a leaky water fountain in the building. She updated her twitter with a comment about how ironic it was that an office dealing with Iowa flood relief was having flooding problems. Immediately, the office began getting calls from reporters and criticism from other people.

        I think this is a perfect example of how the tweet of one journalist could affect the entire publication.

        Also, journalists need to realize how much of their credibility is at stake. For example, if Narisetti were to now write an article on a proposition for retirement age for senators, I could not take it seriously because I already know his bias on the issue. And if the Post wanted to publish an article on that topic, it could not use him as a reporter. So, I think there is definitely substance to the notion of editors monitoring their journalists’ tweets and blogs.

    • lindsaymiller89

      Allison I completely agree. I love to see what writers really think. I feel like I can relate to them much more easily. Seeing their opinions makes them more human. But some discretion doesn’t hurt. Rereading before hitting send could save writers enormous repercussions from readers and employers. After all, a little common sense goes a long way.

      • I love that last line you just used because it’s so true. A smart twitter user can pack a ton of meaning, opinion and humor into a tweet without offending the public or their employer. I love it when I can know what the writer thinks about a piece he or she wrote or their quick thoughts about a news event they didn’t cover.

      • I do value opinions, because it shows a side of the article I either agree with or haven’t thoguht about.
        However, don’t the people who are getting in trouble fail to use their common sense already? Is there a way to really enforce that? It’s kind of sad we have to have rules for all of this when you’re right: a little common sense does go a long way.

    • Yes, I think it is absolutely ridiculous to think that an editor would expect a person to phone in their tweets. Haha can you imagine how much time that would waste for the editor and the reporter?

  5. Yes, reporters should be tweeting. Good grief, why not? Something that has always resonated with me was posted by one of my favorite bloggers (http://rogueink.wordpress.com, who hasn’t updated since election day ::sniff::):

    “Here’s the fun thing about opinions, though. Now everyone who reads that opinion has to think about it. Some will agree, some will disagree. And while they may know instantaneously which side of the debate they fall on, and why they may never, ever change their opinion from the first day the topic occurs to them to the last day their memory functions at all, now they all have to think about WHY.

    I just made you think about WHY something is. I just made you consider the essence of truth itself. That’s amazing. That’s the power of writing.”

    Kind of cool, right?

    Here’s a good policy to live (and write) by: use common sense. Yes, the reality is, in fact, simple: if you don’t want something read, don’t put it on the Internet. It’s public.

    But Raju Narisetti isn’t making death threats, he’s not posting porn, he’s not bad-mouthing his boss; he’s talking candidly and personally about health care reform. Oops? So he got “caught.” His subject matter isn’t as innocuous as mustard, but Poniewozik is right: “If your work is fair, sharing your beliefs does not make it less so.”

    • I’m glad you used that excerpt about opinions. We’re constantly told to initiate and maintain a conversation through social media. How do we expect the conversation to continue of everything is censored and objective? And you’re right, “if you don’t want something read, don’t put it on the internet.” Enough said.

    • That’s a great sum up of how media (opinion writing specifically) affects us daily: It makes us question the “why.”

      Anesthetizing excellent, expert voices online kills conversation, and one of a journalist’s responsibilities is fostering discussion in public forum. How are we going to do that if we can’t voice our own (professional) opinions?

    • “If your work is fair, sharing your beliefs does not make it less so.”

      I definitely agree. If it’s a business Twitter, my gosh follow guidelines, but in regards to personal tweets, let reporters go free! A tweeted opinion can catch the attention and raise the curiosity of potential readers. Are they on the same side as the reporter, or the opposite? Well, either way they’re likely going to check out his/her writing, because they got hooked and want to be informed. And what’s so bad about extra readers going over well-edited and well-reported prose?

      • @caitlinberens
        exactly. a reporter is looking to get an article viewed as much as possible. do we really think they would intend to jeopardize that?

    • I agree with your assessment of the reporter being “caught.” His editors seemed to feel that he had committed a grave crime, and that they were doing their readers a great service by muzzling him.

      I loved that after he got caught, the journalist tweeted about how he was being censored. That is proof of how little he (and we) care about the use of Twitter.

    • Bad Raju Narisetti, tsk, tsk! We must stifle the voice and opinion of the naughty journalists who dare to spit in the face of health care reform!

      I mean, really? This is what it’s come to? You’ve made a fine point here and I really like the segment you pulled from the blog about the “WHY” and “the power of writing.” That’s some really cool stuff and that’s why I love about social media. The fact that anywhere, anytime, someone can read something YOU wrote and have to think WHY.

      Bravo.

    • In response to Holly:
      Where opinions are great and wonderful mind-expanders, they are just as you say public. As journalists, as said in the Washington Post article, we give up our rights a private citizens and must refrain at times of incrimination. This isn’t just the things around us, but us as published writers.
      It was also said in the article, these bloggings or tweets need to be thought of as bylines in our stories.
      I agree with this. Implying the question why, and hoping the reader infers the same, is noble and just, but we must uphold our non-bias creed by being very cautions.

    • I like thinking. More people should try it!

    • Writers are people too! Who knows, maybe by tweeting opinions will give news organizations more credibility by upping the transparency. However, people love to point out people’s mistakes. Some readers — and other news organizations — are ready to point the bias finger. But generally, if people are looking for bias, they will find it whether or not it’s there.

  6. I was someway appalled at these articles. Or rather, the rules governing the debate in them Obviously reporters need to be promoting themselves. That’s part of what social media is for, right? Freedom of expression, hellooo? It gives me a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach that the same reporters who are facilitating opinions for the general public aren’t allowed to express their own.

    I love this quote: “The guidelines Dow Jones puts out basically instruct their staffers to be the most boring social-networkers online, to be withholding from their readers, and generally, to guarantee themselves a tiny online following.” (Poniewozik hit the nail on the head with that one.) Bottom line: journalists are hurting their own profession by not asserting their opinion on their Twitter’s or Facebook’s.

    Who gives a hoot if the general public sees their opinion? If it’s not in the article, these reporters should be free to tweet at their discretion. Whoever is following the Post’s or Dow Jones’ reporters on social media isn’t an uneducated couch potato. These people know how to form their own ideas based on what they’ve read, and one writer’s opinion isn’t going to make the Post’s ratings fall dramatically, or even cause some sort of social uproar, as the editors of these publications probably think.

    Yes, there should be “common sense” guidelines, but the instructions reporters and writers are given barely give them the freedom to exercise that sense. I’m annoyed.

    • I agree, but playing devil’s advocate:

      “Many readers already view The Post with suspicion and believe that the personal views of its reporters and editors influence the coverage.”

      One of the Post’s priorities is appearing unbiased in all of it’s coverage. Twitter poses quite a threat to that standard–one slip of a Tweet and your credibility as a trusted brand is ruined. Oops.

      • aschnoebelen

        This is exactly where a lot of my thoughts are on this issue. Publications are a brand, just as Riane said. If your tweets damage the reliability of your brand, you as an employee suffer as well.

        Really, it’s to everyone’s advantage for journalists on twitter to exercise common sense and discretion while tweeting. It’s the difference between using the service to vent your feelings and using it to promote yourself and your work.

      • I agree, once people know the opinions of journalists it makes them that much more attentive to whether or not there is bias in their article. Readers could even stop reading articles written by that journalist just because of a difference in opinion.

    • Waiter to journalist: “Would you care to have some First Amendment rights and freedom of expression today?”

      Journalist: “Yes, please. That’s just what I wanted.”

      Waiter: “Oh, I’m sorry, I lied. Those aren’t on the menu right now. Would you like to try something else?”

      Journalist:

      • Zachary Polka

        In response to Matt S.:
        Funny and creative. Although, we do still have our rights, we just need to be more selective of our company.
        As said in the Washington Post social media guidelines article, journalist must refrain from, or use caution when, joining social networks or special interest groups of topics they cover. This is vague.
        Can I join “Women for Rights” if I’m a sports columnist?
        Can I attend a rally for the empowering of gays and lesbians if I’m on a crime beat?
        The first: I might speak more highly on women’s sports than men’s; the second: I might favor a gay “victim” over the arresting officers.

      • Let’s remember that the First Amendment forbids government from stepping on citizens’ rights. The First Amendment doesn’t apply to corporations.

      • Thanks for the response. I was being facetious, of course. Good points made by all.

    • The SPJ Code of Ethics is relevant here:

      “Act Independently: Journalists should be free of obligation to any interest other than the public’s right to know.

      Journalists should:

      —Avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived.
      — Remain free of associations and activities that may compromise integrity or damage credibility.

      Be Accountable
      Journalists are accountable to their readers, listeners, viewers and each other.

      Journalists should:

      — Clarify and explain news coverage and invite dialogue with the public over journalistic conduct.”

      If we post something that calls into question our credibility or compromises our integrity, we have a problem.

      On the other hand, social media can helps us explain our coverage and “invite dialogue.”

  7. I like what Poniewozik said in his May blog post:

    “Most of this boils down to the classic old-media problem with new media: fear of the loss of control.”

    I think we’re in a dangerous time of hypersensitivity and paranoia, where 140 characters have the power to knock down media powerhouses like the Washington Post–or at least that’s what top editors are terrified of.

    It’s not only about editors not trusting their reporters. It’s about editors not trusting their readers to interpret opinionated social media posts. I think the average reader recognizes that reporters are people with their own ideas about the news–everyone has an opinion. And stifling opinions of beat reporters–essentially experts in their fields–is detrimental to the flow of ideas and public discourse. Don’t muzzle the media.

    • That’s the thing about social media: everyone’s taking part in the conversation, and though it’s labeled as something “social,” those same tweets and posts intermingle with professional ones on a regular basis.

      You’re right, it’s more an issue of editors not trusting readers to correctly interpret social media posts. I think that’s a valid concern, especially since the closest thing to a distinguishing line between social and professional is a flirty guesstimate.

      But denying journalists the ability to promote their work and opinions via social websites seems foolish, as long as those journalists exercise caution while doing so.

    • I think that you’re right. With layoffs happening left and right, I think that Twitter censoring is what editors are doing to stay in control of their reporters and also to protect a printed publication that can’t afford to make any enemies. It’s paranoia. I can understand not wanting to get negative publicity via an unwise tweet, but I think that more negative light is being placed upon the publications that try to take away reporters right to tweet.

    • That’s interesting! They do make it seem like they don’t trust their readers to have common sense. I like to give the average person the benefit of the doubt in that category most of the time. There are exceptions of course. Most people probably understand that journalists are people too.

    • Riane, I think that’s very true. To follow up on the statement by Poniewozik, though, I think that editors of these sort of publications should have been expecting social media to affect their writers and reporters. Should this really come as a shock that employees of magazine and online publications want to promote themselves in an economy that seems to be rocketing steadily downward? I don’t think so. “Stifling opinions”, as you say, is definitely not the answer to keeping the public from being swayed.

    • To me, it seems that there is somewhat of a distinction between a beat reporter and a hard-news-breaking multipurpose reporter. I guess I never really consider journalists to be an “expert” on a given topic, though I know they certainly are. It just seems that if I’m looking for an expert witness in court, I’ll go to a doctor rather than a journalist that covers the hospital beat. I guess I’ve just always learned that journalists never assert opinions unless it’s in the opinions page. Maybe that’s because I’ve only ever really learned inverted-pyramid news writing and never covered a beat. So, perhaps I’m an example of this hypersensitive society?

    • Definitely. The big editors need to realize that their readers are smart and understand that what a reporter writes on their Twitter is not necessarily the opinion of their publication.

  8. All three blogs really illustrated the age-old debate over whether or not social media is being used responsibly today. Do I frown upon the Washington Post and Wall Street Journal censoring reporters by not having them tweet or post to Facebook?

    Yes.

    I mean, I do understand where the WashPost and WSJ come across trying to keep up their idea of being unbiased and un-objective in their coverage, but it’s the 21st Century guys. I’m assuming though that the reporters who do tweet aren’t going to post something so opinionated that it’ll hurt their credibility.

    And the idea that you have to remind your writers “to use common sense” when they post? I don’t think we’re that stupid that we should post something we’ll regret. It’s like us college students not posting pictures of us so drunk that we’re clutching a toilet. We aren’t “idiots”.

    • I don’t think there is any problem with reminding writers to use common sense when they tweet. The beauty and danger of Twitter is that anything can be uploaded very quickly — meaning that reporter doesn’t have time to cool off as the event is happening and think through the tweet. It’s easy to get caught up in the moment and tweet something they will regret. I don’t see a problem with the Post approving Post-attached tweets, the same process as approving articles that go in the newspaper.

    • Even if journalists do post something super opinionated on their private Twitter accounts, isn’t that ok since it’s their “private” accounts? Also, if a reporter does his/her job correctly and writes an unbiased piece for a publication, isn’t it ok for them to blow off some steam and allow their opinion to be tweeted? This should draw more of an audience to the story and also prove that journalists are real people with real opinions, just like everyone else. As long as the piece has no evidence of bias, what’s the big deal?

    • I agree with Jenni. I know the WashPost and other publications who have restricted their reporters from tweeting in order to create a certain voice for their publication are doing so because they don’t want to lose control of their reporters who say whatever they feel like on social media sites. But writers do have common sense (for the most part anyway) and should not have to be told to not post something that would undermine the publication’s credibility–because shouldn’t we already know this?

  9. It seems kind of ridiculous to me that journalists should have to remove their own personal twitter accounts because of their profession. Like Poniewozik says, journalists have opinions when they cover things. If they didn’t have opinions, they would be idiots. It seems ironically like these journalists are having their First Amendment rights violated by not being allowed to have their own twitter accounts.

    I can understand the post not wanting those posts on their Post Twitter account, but forcing reporters to comply on their own pages? That doesn’t seem right. If you want the Post’s take on an issue, you check the Post’s site. If you want Narisetti’s view, check his Twitter. To me it doesn’t get any more complicated than that.

    • lindsaymiller89

      I agree. Journalists should be able to have a separate Twitter account that can’t be controlled by employers. People need to be able to keep work at the office. Anyone following a journalist’s personal twitter account expects to see opinions they may or may not agree with.

      • This made me think about an alternative that I hadn’t considered when I first read the Post’s argument. Normally I don’t seek out a specific journalist’s writing. And, most people that do are usually looking into journalists they agree with, anyway. So, a logical solution may be to have a Twitter account for each section of the paper rather than each reporter. Then, the journalists could have their own Twitter accounts for personal tweets.

    • If a writer only takes one stance on a story, or doesn’t have an opinion on an issue separate from the publication they work for– they are an idiot. Just because you are associated with The Post or The Times, doesn’t mean you have the same views. A writer’s Twitter page or Facebook account should definitely be referred to separate from their professional sphere.

      If I were a publication I would encourage my writers to take advantage of social media, because, in the end, it only forms deeper bonds between the writer and the reader by laying it all out on the table.

    • I have to agree with keeping work separate from your personal life. I already know some people who do have a “private” Twitter account separate from a “work-related” one. It’s great to get some feedback from the writer on how they approached the subject, or their take on it. Maybe it could help embrace the writer-reader relationship that doesn’t really exist now.

    • That is a wonderfully simple way of putting it. I understand what the Post’s intention of making guidelines was, but because of what Poniwozik said, it just makes it seem like they’re calling their own staff (Narisetti especially) idiots, which in turn makes them look even worse. I feel like this happens a lot with journalism. Someone tries to stop someone from saying something publicly and it ends up being a bigger story because they tried to stop them.

  10. Personally, I think there are many companies out there who still don’t quite get social media. I think many companies are trying to make social media work for them, instead of working with social media. I think that many newspapers and magazines are still holding on to the old ways. There are those who are trying to adopt new technology, but I still think there are people who are resistant of it. These are the people causing problems. In times like these, where so many changes are happening in the world of newspapers and magazines, these companies need to be willing to adapt. In order to do so, they are going to have to make some mistakes. I think setting up guidelines in an effort to eliminate any mistakes that might look bad is only going to hinder them from adopting these new technologies. Change is a good thing. In times like these, some—but not all—of the old rules need to be modified.

    However, I also think reporters need to be more careful. Even though they may have Twitter or Facebook accounts for their own private use, they need to remember that they are recognizable to the public. Any public official or figure needs to be careful about the things that they say or do online, journalists included.

    • I agree with everything you’ve said. That being said though, I think it’ll be interesting to watch all these mags and companies who don’t get it bite themselves in the butt. One day they’ll have to realize that it’s important because everyone’s doing it. As for your other point, I think it’s important for anyone on the Web to be careful of what they say, especially if they’re influential, but I don’t think they need to have their companies censoring them. It’s unnecessary. They’re supposed to be grown-ups, right?

      • mattvasilogambros

        Right. And that’s why the company puts a policy out there – a policy not regularly enforced, but if the employee violated said policy, there should be consequences. For journalists, a policy controlling biased materials that may harm the credibility of the newspapers should be controlled.

  11. Cutting journalists off from sources that give them more exposure is just ridiculous. If anyone should be using Twitter or Facebook for communication it is writers and reporters. It allows for reader-writer feedback and serves as a more efficient way to provide information. Restricting staff member’s use of social media would also make story generating more difficult and a big chunk of story ideas would be lost.

    A main point Poniewozick makes in his article is that, “If your work is fair, sharing your beliefs does not make it less so (on the contrary, it provides your reader more information to keep you honest). But by perpetuating a fiction no one believes anyway, newspapers don’t make themselves trustworthy; they just seem phony.” Limiting journalists access and participating on social media outlets, in short, completely disposes of their personal opinion–which as the author says, is not objective. Expressing your opinion is a primary component of being a journalist, whether you write editorials or not.

    However it must be mentioned that while Tweeting and Facebooking, writers shouldn’t take their tweets or posts for granted. Because they are writers, what they say will be taken seriously and will be associated with the publication they work for. But, as Poniewozick implies, the publications are only hurt by restricting their writers from using social media outlets.

  12. “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.”

    Well, there goes the right for these journalists to really do anything other than link to stories on the Post’s Web site with carefully worded phrases and a major lack of creativity. This isn’t even in regards to just these journalists’ work accounts, but their “personal” accounts as well. I’m very much against magazines or newspapers limiting journalists’ activities on social networks. In fact, it upsets me that it can even happen. I think that publications have bigger fish to fry than to waste time watching who tweets according to the new standards.

    How can these new forms of social media help expand journalism if we don’t allow journalists to: one, be themselves, and two, be creative? Just like you read the Post in the context of it being an official publication. Personal Twitter feeds of reporters should be read within the contexts of every individual’s private lives. For example, Mark may make a joke on his Twitter page about a Jewish holiday. This may upset some people, but, in the context of Mark’s personal Twitter, he is Jewish and was just making a joke that was meant for and understood by his personal group of friends. I don’t think that publications have the right to censor employees, but I do think that employees have an obligation to the publication that they work for to keep a watchful eye on who they allow to follow them. If it’s personal, keep it private and use common sense.

    Lastly, once again in reference to the Post and now Raju Narisetti (one of the Post’s top editors) closing his Twitter account. I think that the Post’s new guidelines in regards to social media sties are tough, but that a reporters or editors tweets can show his/her bias. This could affect the way that someone reads an article or a publication. But, if a journalist is doing his/her job on a story, it should be presented fairly, even if the reporter has a personal bias. No one is 100 percent unbiased. We should all know this. So when/if a reporter or journalist or whomever tweets something on a personal feed that reveals a bias, what’s the big deal? No one is perfect and mostly everyone has some sort of opinion on everything. So, even if personal opinions are tweeted, if a reporter is doing his/her job and doing it well, personal views won’t really matter. After all, everyone has them.

    In regards to the Time’s piece “The Washington Post Slaps the Twitter Handcuffs on Its Staff,” I also believe that being honest but using common sense on a Twitter feed can help strengthen the bond between reader and journalist, thus creating a sense of trust on the accuracy of a story regardless of a journalist’s tweeted opinion (as long as the journalist fairly provides readers with information about all aspects of a story). As quoted from the story: “this kind of policy sabotages the kind of intimate connection with readers that Twitter and other services make possible, and that newspapers desperately need.”

    Lastly I must say: “Don’t aggressively promote your coverage”? What? Does this mean on top of having no opinion online that journalists also can’t link to fantastic stories which would draw more of an audience to a publication’s site?

    I think I’m going to go tweet my opinion about this.

    • “Don’t agressivly promote your coverage.”?

      I have to agree that this policy seems a bit cutthroat. I think most writers would want to show-off a great article, and it’s counteractive for the paper to limit traffic coming into the site. Plus, if it’s a “hot” topic, it could stem some great conversation. You just have to be careful how you tweet about it.

      • I also think it’s interesting that we all have different levels of comfort with what we publish online. For example, some of us use our “real names” and others only use usernames on this blog. I know I don’t “brand myself” the way I’m always being told to, but I guess I just like being discreet with what I publish. I guess I’m always scared of some type of mishap. Anonymity, no doubt, makes us more lenient with what we publish. For the same reason, I don’t think journalists should have to constantly censor or monitor their thoughts they want to publish. But, I guess I’m not much of an “aggressive promoter” myself.

    • I can see where you’re coming from that it isn’t fair to limit reporters creativity. But while I don’t think its right to limit them, I also have to admit that it may affect the way I read their writing in some cases. Would you say that there isn’t any situation where you’d second guess an article after reading a writers opinions about the topic?

  13. When I read that first article about what Narisetti said and how the Post reacted with these guidelines, I wasn’t sure what to think. I didn’t think that they should be censoring anyone, but it’s also bad to say negative things about your own paper. Then I started reading the article by Poniewozik and the first thing he said made it very clear for me. Everyone has opinions! Well that’s obvious, but my point is that I completely agree that the Post shouldn’t be censoring anyone. Writers, editors and everyone else are entitled to their opinions as well as sharing them how ever they please.

    • mattvasilogambros

      What if their opinions were on pieces the reporters were writing on. Doesn’t that leave the newspaper open for criticism on whether or not their reports are biased or fit to be on staff?

      • So limitations should be set that do not allow writers to tweet, make wall posts, ect. about fellow staff members? Or, they can but only to a certain extent? By restricting individuals of speaking their minds and stating their opinions, publications are stripping journalists of their professional duty–to be truth tellers and to inform the public.

        Basically, there is only one comment I can say about the whole idea of limiting journalists using social media: Goodbye First Amendment rights.

      • If the government were telling reporters not to post to Twitter or Facebook, that would be censorship and a violation of the First Amendment. But the First Amendment applies only to government, not to private corporations/companies. We have to be clear on that.

      • I think Professor Van Wyke makes a good point and helps to clarify this issue as to whether or not this is an infringement upon our First Amendment rights.

  14. Seriously?! What exactly is social media for? Call me crazy, but I thought the point of using media like Twitter was to network, create awareness, generate interest, promote work, etc. The main function of my Twitter account is to link others to my blog.
    Sure, I don’t do any political writing, but it’s the same concept. Do I think this is something people should use wisely? Sure. People should watch what they say in reference to work, but I look at this more as a promotional tool and an expression of personal opinion.
    I agree with Poniewozik 110 percent on this one. By hiding their views, writers can wind up looking indifferent or sneaky. There’s absolutely no reason a journalist should have to keep his or her opinions a secret outside of the workplace.

    Should journalists exercise common sense? Absolutely. That’s why it’s called common sense. Should use of social media be prohibited? Absolutely not. With such a shift to the web, prohibiting use of tools such as these could cause serious harm.

    • Oh, Whitley, my dear… Always such an opinionated girl. But then again, that’s why we love you. You really make your point here, and I agree with what you say about the shift to the Web. We have to promote ourselves any way we can, making Twitter something of a miracle in this day and age for journalists.

  15. It seems strange that journalism execs would be making rules to limit their staff’s freedom of opinion. After all, isn’t American journalism a result of the first amendment?

    However, I do understand that they are worried about the loyalty of their readers. With the shaky future in the world of news, it is a pretty bold move to advertise your opinions as a journalist. Readers take sides. They don’t want to read it if it’s written by someone who they know doesn’t agree with them.

    I think that common sense needs to be exercised here. There is always a place to voice your opinions. I don’t think newspaper execs have the right to make these rules…but on the other hand, if the journalist wants to keep his job, he should think about what opinions he makes public.

    I agree with Poniewozik on this, but I don’t think that Twitter should be used primarily as a tool for journalists to express their opinions. It is a valuable journalism tool for other reasons, and it shouldn’t be taken advantage of.

    Bottom line: Let’s just avoid unnecessary controversy, aka my life motto.

    • I agree with your thoughts about the First Amendment. I blogged about the same type of thing. And come on, aren’t some of the best tweets out there from witty journalists who feel the necessary need to over share on their opinions? Like Mr. Poniewozik, for instance–although one must not forget he’s actually paid to share his opinions. Mr. Narisetti, however, is not.

    • I agree with you. They should be allowed to tweet, but obviously use common sense.
      It is a valuable journalism tool, and can be used to find sources and get suggestions for sources.

    • A big distinction here is which publication you are writing for. I expect and demand objectivity in the Des Moines Register, NYT, WashPost, Time, Newsweek. I do not expect objectivity from the Weekly Standard, The New Republic or Mother Jones.

      Let’s say I’m writing for a pub in the former group: What if I’m covering the health-care reform bill, and I post a disparaging comment about Sen. Tom Harkin to my “private” Twitter feed? Can I be taken seriously, by sources and readers, after that? Won’t I have undercut my credibility? Harkin will think he’ll never get a fair shake from me. My readers will assume I’m writing from a slanted point of view.

  16. Okay, so first, I understand what the Post is getting at. That being said, I feel like they’ve gone too far. Twitter has revolutionized the world of journalism and to take certain aspects of that away seems like quite the backlash.

    I wholeheartedly agree with Mr. Poniewozik about journalists voicing their opinions. As he refers to journos without opinions as “idiots,” and that readers don’t want to get their news from idiots, I had to laugh out loud. He has a point. Everybody has an opinion and even if you’re a journalist, I feel you should be entitled to that opinion.

    While there are limits to what should and should not be allowed on social media like Twitter and Facebook from a journalistic perspective, I feel like much of this is commonsense for most reporters. If not, it should be.

    With the Post’s recent restrictions, I feel like they are attempting to censor their journos. One has to ask–isn’t this somehow tarnishing our First Amendment rights as American citizens and as journalists?

    • Kimisha Chambers

      “many more are required to hide their opinions by their bosses, in the belief that it builds reader confidence to maintain the illusion that the news is produced by people without opinions, i.e., idiots.”

      I also chuckled at Poniewozik’s comment, and I agree with what you post. I think it is a little ironic that we are taught to be journalists who stands up for our first amendment right, but once we have a job our opinions OUTSIDE the workplace is subject to censorship. Or maybe when it comes to being a journalist our job isn’t from 9-5, but 24/7.

      Like you posted, journalists should use common sense when using social medias such as facebook and twitter. Don’t post something you know would make not only yourself look bad, but the business you work for. I think Washington Post and other news media should have more faith in their writers.

    • I couldn’t agree more!!

  17. Journalism is the most self-restricting profession out there. Journalists are to be non-bias and free from influence as they report the truth. When on Twitter or Facebook, even though they are personal “rant-relievers,” they do reflect us as journalists.
    The Washington Post has a wonderful phrase in its social media guidelines article, “we must remember that Washington Post Journalists are always Washington Post Journalists.” Meaning, as journalists, we have a reputation to uphold to the our profession. Journalist shouldn’t vote, because it shows choice one way or the other, giving possibly viewed favor. So, if a journalist shouldn’t vote, then they shouldn’t express their personal views in an online format, viewable by anyone.
    In our ever-changing society, technology is advanced and refined. With this, journalists need to be careful not to incriminate themselves or their medium. If negative or positive things are said by the journalist about anything where their personal views are interjected, then these are in violation of one of our ethics: be independent.
    Post’s article Steve Buttry said journalists “need conversations, not restrictions.” Even so, as journalist, we tread on thin ice when giving our personal opinions in a widely viewed medium. So, I think identifying selves and remaining bias on a blogging arena is just and a good idea as WE ARE REPORTERS, not in the same category as others.
    You don’t see Obama on a blog taking sides on issues, so how can we?

    • Kimisha Chambers

      “Meaning, as journalists, we have a reputation to uphold to the our profession. Journalist shouldn’t vote, because it shows choice one way or the other, giving possibly viewed favor. So, if a journalist shouldn’t vote, then they shouldn’t express their personal views in an online format, viewable by anyone.”

      Maybe that kind of thinking needs to revisited? No one is completely unbiased or uninfluenced, therefore it’s the journalists job to make sure their reporting is fair. When it comes to social medias such as Twitter, I think journalist’s should post their opinion, but use discretion. And as I mention before, I think the Washington Post big wigs need to have more faith that reporters can use discretion when using social media.

      Also, I know what the “real world” is like and I know what we are taught in school can never fully prepare us for what we will encounter in the workplace. This topic in discussion is one reason why I chose to be a magazine journalist over newspaper (I like a little less restrictive environment, depending on what magazine you work for).

    • I can think of professions that are more restrictive than journalism. Doctors and clergy, for two.

      And, who says journalists shouldn’t vote?

      It’s our civic duty to vote. I can see why reporters, especially political reporters, don’t register with a political party or don’t slap bumper stickers on their cars. But no one should give up their fundamental democratic right to vote.

  18. Responding to Kimisha Chambers:
    I understand your comments regarding journalist learning and fighting for their first amendment rights and censoring their writing outside the workplace. Although, is it correct for a jouralist to bash the political system and then go into work the next day to write a political piece regarding new legislation?
    In the “real-world,” life isn’t the grand design as it is taught in schools; there’s always a right way, and a “how we do it in the real-world” way.
    I wish, as employees of a company/business, we ran our personal lives, but this is hardly the case. The wor-life and the home-life seem to always mesh together; the only differentiating criterium from person to person is how much.

    • So should we deny our own first amendment rights? We too are citizens governed under the same rights as everybody else.

      Are we ignorant enough to think we’re above these?

  19. Kimisha Chambers

    I think Washington Post and WSJ should have a little more trust in their journalists. It is rather discouraging to know that journalists I believe are being censored in such a way because of fear readers won’t like what a journalist viewpoint is, outside of a newspaper article.

    I actually went on twitter and read some of the tweets from my favorite newscaster Anderson Cooper, and his tweets are straight-forward links to his blog and articles. I then read tweets from another broadcaster at CNN, Rick Sanchez and his were a little more opinionated and personal. But, I also know that Cooper is more focus on the hard news and Sanchez is somewhat a personality.

    In my opinion, Washington Post bigwigs are panicking for no reason. You follow a certain journalist because you like what they have to say and I think Washington Post is underestimating their readers’ intelligence to decipher from what’s a journalist’s opinion and what is fact.

  20. mattvasilogambros

    Having read the WaPo policy, I really don’t think it’s that’s unreasonable. Theoretically, journalists are supposed to be without biases in their reporting. That does not mean, as the TIME article points out, that reporters should be without opinions. I agree with his sentiments, but reporters should know better than to put their opinions on the internet. WaPo has a point when it says that these unbiased Tweets could instill a sense of doubt in the public when it comes to unbiased coverage.

    Should reporters have Facebooks or Twitters? Sure. But I believe the content should be opinion-neutral since reporters are in public eye and their actions on the internet could be damaging to newspapers in the long run. Another solution, like Van Wyke says in class, keep your Facebook private and Twitter for business. However, as the WaPo policy states, be careful what you post.

    • I agree with the private/business ideology of social media. It’s immature and sometimes offensive to have too much of your personal life on something that is meant to be a professional form of networking.

      That being said, I know my own Facebook is full of my own opinions, but I use if for its original purpose of connecting with friends, not for any business-related material. My Twitter, however, I try to keep mostly professional, since (in my opinion) it functions as a social media business solution better than FB. If journalists can’t post their opinions on Facebook of all places — a once-casual site for friendly connections that has been taken over by the social media outbreak — where CAN they vent?

      Also, I think it’s good to hear people react to your opinions; whether in agreement or disagreement, you have someone challenging your ideas, which forces you to have a strong understanding of the topic in order to argue your opinion effectively.

  21. Journalist need to be Twitter, it’s as simple as that. Tweeting opens up so many small things a journalist has never had the opportunity to do before. A great example is in sports journalism. I’m a big Twins fan, so I follow some of the Star Tribune’s Twins beat writers and some Twins bloggers. On gameday, I don’t only get their preview article of the game, I get line-ups when they become available, in game comments, quick postgame analysis, etc. Twitter is an amazing tool that no journalist should be without.

    However, it is reasonable for employers to expect their journalists to be responsible. Journalists have to be objective, but I can understand that a company (which media is) wouldn’t want journalists continually posting tweets that reflect poorly on the publication or are unacceptable for other reasons.

    • Good point, I can see where a journalist’s negative comments of their company could become a problem. Perhaps they should amend the ban — instead of simply not allowing Twitter/FB, what if they restrict it to only professional topics, instead of a free-for-all of personal diatribe? I feel like professional opinions in public forums like this are much easier to handle than personal opinions.

  22. Mary Bess Bolling

    Journalists should tweet.

    Long gone are the days of the scene from the movie “The Paper” when Michael Keaton’s character dupes the editor of a major newspaper into giving up the angle to a story that only that paper had its hands on.

    The flow of information is free and fast. Instead of clinging to the hope (and that’s all it is now – a hope) that newspapers can maintain control over content before publication, we must take Clay Shirky’s advice and experiment.

    As Poniewozik said, transparency is a good thing, not a danger. The romantic veil of journalism has lifted, leaving publications exposed to their readers. Social media and the Internet allow readers to critique the media. Though this is a scary prospect, we can’t fight it.

    The Wall Street Journal’s policy outlines that journalists must not promote their coverage, must run their possibly controversial posts by their editors and must not tweet about subjects pre-publication. I understand why the WSJ is trying to impose these restrictions, but what good will these rules do?

    Reporters on social media sites could only increase readership and would undeniably increase transparency, and therefore the public’s trust, in journalism.

    • I understand why the WSJ would restrict reporter’s tweet about subjects pre-publication though. Transparency is a good thing, but newspapers aren’t working for charity. They have to make money. They want people to buy the published version instead of going to the website and read. Or know it from the tweets and lose interest…

      But I do agree, journalists should tweet. I love the fact that readers can critique the media, because someone who works as a guard also needs a supervisor. Readers keep the media reliable, while the medial keep the government reliable. That’s a lovable cycle.

  23. In this generation, it is essential that reporters are tweeting, providing links to their online content, sharing opinions, etc. As someone who really only reads online content based on those links from Twitter, you can see why I think this is essential. I think it increases the amount of people who read a publication’s online content significantly, which may make a difference in how the publication survives the transition from print content to nearly everything online.

    Reporters should definitely use good judgement and ethics before they tweet, and keep in mind that if their tweets are in any way opinionated/controversial, they will be picked up and talked about. There’s no way around that. But newspapers and magazines should not be putting boundaries on their reporters as to what they can and can’t tweet based on what the publication wants their “voice” to sound like.

    Poniewozik really said it best in his blog:

    “If you slant your coverage, hiding your beliefs does not make your work better … this kind of policy sabotages the kind of intimate connection with readers that Twitter and other services make possible, and that newspapers desperately need.”

    By restricting their reporters from tweeting their opinions, newspapers and magazines aren’t making their publications better, they’re exposing them to the criticism of, well, is this publication trustworthy? How can I tell if they restrict their reporters from online activity? What are they trying to hide?

    • Using your best judgement when tweeting and making facebook is crucial for journalists, more-so than people who don’t write for a living. As Poniewozick implied, what writers say follows them is a more professional way (can be associated with their publication, ect).

      I like your end question about what publications are trying to hide by restricting their staff members social media usage. I found myself wondering this exact same issue. Are they trying to take away their writer’s voice and personal opinion?

  24. In some ways I understand this can be construed as a limitation of free speech. But, on the other hand, it is a job.

    I remember in high school teachers would always say, “This is a parochial school, not a public school, so don’t give us the argument that we’re violating your free speech. You can’t say anything inappropriate.”

    While I can’t even begin addressing the many angles of this argument, I do want to say it’s not all that unrelated to what the Post is conveying through this policy. Yes, you may have free speech, but jobs and situations force you to personally curtail that at times. So, I think it is acceptable for employers to place limitations on their actions.

    I remember in my J54 class our professor said journalists sometimes have to make personal sacrifices to be perceived as neutral. For example, you may not be able to go to political rallies for your own personal benefit, wear political tee-shirts, or post political support signs in your front yard. From what I understand, that’s just what comes with the territory.

    • Your point is valid, really. I do believe that, in order to be a good journalist, you have to make some sacrifices. And in this case, the sacrifice would probably be Twitter and Facebook. The First Amendment protects you from government abuse; it doesn’t protect you from abuses committed by the private sector.

      Then, again. Poniewozik says that the world is changing. And what previously has been a sacrifice may not necessarily be sacrificed anymore. In this case, he’s suggesting that journalists can express their opinions because technology allow them to do so. And sticking to the “old way of doing business” is making newspapers more irrelevant.

      But do you think the “old way of doing business” include the sacrifices journalists used to make? What do you think. Should journalists sacrifice anything anymore?

  25. After reading the articles and everyone’s opinions, I am still alittle torn on the subject. I agree 100 percent that freedom of speech applies here– journalists should be able to express themselves and say their opinions. I don’t think that the Post editor’s comments would’ve affected my opinion of his writing, it was his right to be able to say whatever he wants. on the other hand, i see the point that this could spiral into something harmful to the ethics of unbiased journalism. I think the only way to deal with this issue must just be to use common sense in dealing with journalists using social media. There should always be a freedom about it, but a journalists first responsiblity is to make sure that the news is covered in an unbiased way.

    • I agree that covering the actual news should be done without bias, but I never think of a tweet or Facebook status itself as absolute “news” unless it is a link to an article or other news source. For a journalist to say something on Twitter/FB does not automatically make it a news report just because it came from a reporter — they are people who have opinions on topics they are informed about, just like everyone else. If anything, the fact that they DO have an opintion suggests they are knowledgeable about their topic enough to have an opinion at all.

  26. I see no problem in allowing reporters to tweet. The bottom line is that reporters can have thoughts of their own. They aren’t these walking, unbiased zombies.
    We report unbiased information, we don’t have to live our whole lives unbiased. Maybe the public needs to understand that better.
    Twitter can be a powerful attribute for a newspaper. Why make them more irrelevant than they’re already becoming?

  27. I’m really torn on this issue. While I will support the 1st amendment to the death, I feel like social media has a lot of damaging potential for news publications.

    On the one hand, journalists using social media could save the profession. In the age of networking, people feel more comfortable when they feel a personal connection to the person they are reading. If the audience begins to relate to the journalist on a more personal level, they just might be willing to *gasp* pay for their online content and keep the industry alive.

    On the other hand, opinion and news have always been strictly separated. Our entire country was formed on the belief of separation of church and state, or separation of governing and opinion. I don’t agree with Poniewozik that having no opinion means you’re an idiot. Personally, I prefer my news unbiased so I can form my own opinion. If I want to learn other people’s opinions on the topic, I actively search them out. So while I would be interested in the journalists opinion, it would completely affect the way I read their piece, as well as all their future stories.

    Social networking creates more traffic for journalists. It also can cause huge reputation and credibility problems. I guess I feel that journalists shouldn’t have restrictions on their social media use, they should just be reminded that they do so at their own risk. It could make or brake their career and their entire profession.

    • I’m so glad we think alike. And I really want to emphasise the point Poniewozik made about “having no opinion means you’re an idiot,” too. Not everybody has opinions on things. Sometimes I report on something, and my opinion is to not have opinion on the issue otherwise it would be really hard for me to write. I like the points Poniewozik made against the Twitter ban, but because he says having no opinion equates to being an idiot, I lose trust in him. And, let’s see, I don’t think I would want to read his article regarding this issue anymore because I know what he’s going to say. Period.

  28. James Poniewozik’s criticism of the Wall Street Journal’s social media policies read my mind. The Internet has undoubtedly upended journalism’s formerly “marble” face. Instead, we can see journalists as people — smart people, like he said — who have opinions. It would be silly for anyone to expect journalists to not have an opinion.

    However, I can see the danger in losing credibility the Washington Post worries about. But as long as those opinions aren’t posted, like, right next to the article, readers can still come to their own conclusions. If the readers aren’t open enough to realize that journalists will have their opinions then maybe they’re not so smart either.

    • But here’s the problem. OK, so we respect the readers and we think they’re smart enough to make sense on their own that reporters’ tweets aren’t reflecting the opinion of the paper. But if you think about it, the majority of the (world) population don’t have sufficient education. Many times readers read the commentary and perceive it as the papers’ opinion. I mean, that happens. And to minimize that possibility of being perceived as biased, the Post saw this ban as a solution.

      • I agree with you, but at the same time readers are smarter than you’d think. I replied in an earlier post that people will find bias if they want, even if it’s not there. The same goes for credibility. I think allowing journalists to tweet their opinions on subject matter and give behind-the-scenes looks on their stories adds a human dimension to how the public perceives newsrooms.

  29. To be honest, I agree with the Post Ombudsman to a certain degree. I agree with him in the sense that journalists reflecting their own opinions on issues could heavily undermine the credibility of the newspaper. Once a person is known for his or her opinions, what the person produces will be scrutinized for that certain biased. Once the readers know what you think, they are going to automatically assume that your article is going to reflect your opinion. And think about sources you’re going to interview. If they know where you stand on the issue, especially if it’s opposite to their positions, they aren’t going to be as open when they talk to you.

    But I don’t think it’s wrong that journalists have opinions. We aren’t mindless machines anyway. And tweeting or facebooking is a way to present their opinions. As Poniewozik says, it doesn’t lessen the quality of their work. So, regulation isn’t the best way to go about it. I think it really is up to journalists to be thoughtful of what they put on the internet.

    This is more of a problem to newspapers than magazines. Newspapers report news. Magazines talk about news (sometimes). I see no problem for magazine journalists using social networking sites. But newspaper journalists really have to make a tough call on this one.

    • Maybe it’s better to be transparent though? At least if you put your opinion out there about things people can’t accuse you of masking bias.

    • I definitely agree with you. Magazines are supposed to have opinions. Newspapers are supposed to help you create your own. They are gatekeepers and watchdogs, not commentaries.

      Think of it this way. If Perez Hilton wrote an article in a magazine, it would be entertaining. If he wrote a hard news piece to appear in USA Today, nobody would take him seriously. His online persona completely dictates his credibility. Journalists need to be extremely cautious when posting opinions on the web.

  30. I believe that restricting a reporter’s Twitter or Facebook is unproductive and pointless. I agree with Poniewozik that its good for people to know that the reporters do have an opinion of the subjects they report. If you’re reading an article about the war in Afghanistan, for example, you expect the journalist writing to know exactly what they are talking about in order to express it plainly to those of us who have no idea. If the reporter is that knowledgeable, how are they expected to be totally objective? It’s impossible for human nature to NOT form some sort of viewpoint when one is immersed so deeply into a topic.
    For the Post to silence the comments of their reporters is pointless — if anything, I think it weakens the readers’ trust in their expertise if they can’t express their views about the subjects the report.

    • I think this debate confuses me a lot. For example, Fox News is constantly criticized for their conservative take on issues. Many people attack them for being biased in their reporting. And it’s well known that the reputation of one member can affect the reputation of the entire corporation. Look at ACORN. A few videos surface of illegal activity from their employees, and the whole organization is under fire. It is human nature to project one’s opinion of a person onto any group that person is affiliated with. While I’m not sure how I feel about the Post limiting their journalists’ free speech, I completely understand how they need to be worried about the reputation of their entire newspaper just from one journalist’s social network updates.

  31. Yes journalists should use twitter. I don’t see why they can’t. It’s pretty obvious that any tweets are going to be the opinion of the person who wrote it.
    A journalist needs some way to get their opinon out there. In their news stories they can’t be biased, but on their personal twitter, why not.
    Like others have said, its just common sense on what to post and what not to post.
    I agree with Poniewozik when he says “I tend to tweet from the hip, but even I know that some revelations are better saved for friends on Facebook—or maybe a licensed therapist.”

    • Agreed. I find it completely reasonable and relevant that journalists’ work be able to include opinion or not depending on the piece’s style. This shouldn’t be true of writing journalists do personally, i.e. Facebook, Twitter. Poniewozik seems to feel this way as well.

  32. I think that twitter is a great way to promote articles that are both current and upcoming in the publication. I agree that if a twitter is supposed to support your work it should remain professional. Journalists should not tweet their opinions unless they are a opinion columnist. They should not be posting stuff about their personal life that is not related to their articles.

    Twitter is a fantastic marketing tool, but only when used in a professional manner.

  33. I think that twitter is a great way to promote articles that are both current and upcoming in the publication. I agree that if a twitter is supposed to support your work it should remain professional. Journalists should not tweet their opinions unless they are a opinion columnist. They should not be posting stuff about their personal life that is not related to their articles.

    Twitter is a fantastic marketing tool, but only when used in a professional manner.

    • You bring up a good point. Staying professional is always something that should be kept in mind — especially for journalists. I don’t want to say Narisetti shouldn’t have posted what he did, however, he needs to be aware of what may come from him putting his opinion out there (and he very well may have been). I also feel that instead of completely eliminated the use of Twitter, publications may instead find it more appropriate to regulate posts with set rules.

  34. It seems to me as if the Post is getting be a little too arrogant. Twitter might be the most useful tool for newspapers developed in some time and I find it hard to believe that the Post is abandoning its use of Twitter due to a few isolated incidences. I use Twitter as a feed for all of the news sources that I read and if journalists and editors cannot use it to direct traffic to their websites, then they are losing out.

    • I agree. This may cost the Post some readers. People (like you) who use Twitter to inform themselves of new stories won’t get this from the Post anymore. I think there are many more out there just like you.

  35. I don’t find it necessary to limit journalists’ activity on social networks. Of course everyone has their own opinion, that’s obvious, but it’s a journalists job to know when their opinion might be getting in the way of their work. If they’re strictly a news writer, their opinion shouldn’t be included in their work — but that’s not to say they don’t have one. This is similar to what Poniewozik mentioned. I found his article most interesting and agree more so with him.

    What hit home most for me was this: “If you slant your coverage, hiding your beliefs does not make your work better. If your work is fair, sharing your beliefs does not make it less so (on the contrary, it provides your reader more information to keep you honest). But by perpetuating a fiction no one believes anyway, newspapers don’t make themselves trustworthy; they just seem phony.” (Poniewozik, Time)

    I agree completely with this excerpt. Covering a story accurately can get tricky, but then again that’s what being a journalist is all about. One must know how to properly tell their audience what needs to be told.

    In regards to the whole situation with Raju Narisetti, I don’t think it’s to say he shouldn’t have posted what he did, however, he had to have known many people were going to read it. When speaking your mind you must realize there are people who will disagree with you, people who will agree with you and those who will not like the fact you’re opinionated.

  36. “The guidelines Dow Jones put out basically instruct their staffers to be the most boring social-networkers online, to be withholding from their readers, and generally, to guarantee themselves a tiny online following.”

    Of the readings, this sentence resonated most with me by boldly pointing out the flaws in the new rules. Why limit yourself in this robust, ever-growing world of online journalism?

    I see the idea behind the rules Dow Jones created, but they could go about it in a much better way. Journalists, in my opinion, should participate in social media (and lots of it) for the benefit of both their careers and the people that rely upon them in our democratic society.

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