Twitter and the media: can journalists speak their minds?
Media workers and their employers use Twitter to report, reach a larger audience, and increase interaction with their followers. However, when journalists use the site to share their personal opinions they can face reprisal from editors, have interviews canceled, or even be fired.
Recently, the hard-driving editor-in-chief of Bloomberg News, Matt Winkler, sent a note to his newsroom criticizing several of his reporters’ tweets during a congressional hearing, Talking Biz News reports. According to Winkler, posts that were “opinion…and therefore inaccurate” compromised Bloomberg’s integrity.
Newsweek’s Andrew Romano has also faced setbacks as a result of his tweets. The reporter was told to profile Republican Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, using his personal Twitter posts on the politician as the basis for the story. However, after a pithy post or two, Bachmann canceled an interview with Romano, prompting his editors to kill the story.
A more extreme example comes from Brazil. Felipe Milanez was fired as editor of National Geographic Brasil after tweeting criticism of Veja magazine, which is published by the same media group – Editora Abril. The São Paulo Journalists' Union criticized Abril for restricting the journalist's right to free expression.
This TechCrunch headline says it best: “Twitter unearths a secret: journalists have opinions.” But it seems that media outlets want to keep that secret under wraps. A Washington Post social media manual says that its journalists must “relinquish some of the personal privileges of private citizens” and must “refrain from writing, tweeting or posting anything...that could be perceived as reflecting political, racial, sexist, religious or other bias or favoritism that could be used to tarnish our journalistic credibility.”
The BBC recommends being careful when retweeting third-party comments, as it “may appear to be an endorsement of the original author’s point of view.” Similarly, Brazil's Rede Globo prohibits its journalists from using social networks to post about topics related to the network’s activities, the media marketplace, or media regulation.
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