Staci Kramer, an editor at Paid Content (http://paidcontent.org/article/419-wapos-social-media-guidelines-paint-staff-into-virtual-corner/) posted yesterday morning about the Washington Post's new policy regarding the use of social media by its journalists. It appears that WaPo has issued a rigorous policy requiring its employees to treat every tweet as if it were sitting under the paper's masthead. The policy even goes as far as to say that as employees of the Post, they relinquish certain rights guaranteed to other Americans:
"All Washington Post journalists relinquish some of the personal privileges of private citizens. Post journalists must recognize that any content associated with them in an online social network is, for practical purposes, the equivalent of what appears beneath their bylines in the newspaper or on our website."
It's fascinating to think that this is coming from the same editorial desk that scooped the story of the Watergate break-in and prides itself on editorial integrity.
Is it just me, or does this seem a little drastic? It would be interesting to know whether journalists at other news organizations are under similar dictates. Regardless, it's symptomatic of an industry that's at an inflection point and not sure how to evolve.
I value quality journalism as well as anybody. I have great respect for the editorial process. We get two newspapers in our household: the Washington Post and the New York Times, and eagerly devour those as well as articles from dozens of other publications on a daily basis. I know that a lot of what's published online is dreck, or just plain wrong. But that doesn't mean that professional news organizations can stick their heads in the sand and hope it goes away.
It's often said that the Internet is the "greatest publishing innovation since Gutenberg's printing press". Arguably social media offers an order-of-magnitude leap in terms of reach and scale. News organizations must devise ways to engage in social media as a compliment to their offline publications or broadcasts. They need to embrace these authentic, transparent conversations as another source of news and opinion, and another way to reach more readers or viewers. @wolfblitzercnn, @AnnCurry, and @nprnews are terrific examples of the successful integration of social media with offline broadcasts.
A news organization built by legends like Kay Graham and Bob Woodward can do better than this.