Accuracy in Media

The Associated Press is showing just how tough it is for traditional media organizations to cope with the explosive growth of social media.

Yesterday, for the third time in less than a year, the AP issued revised social media guidelines for its reporters.

The AP first updated their guidelines in July when they encouraged journalists to share stories and gather  information following the impact that social media, and Twitter in particular, had during the “Arab Spring.”

Then, in November, the AP revised the guidelines again focusing on the issue of retweeting, with this confusing paragraph:

“Retweets, like tweets, should not be written in a way that looks like you’re expressing a personal opinion on the issues of the day. A retweet with no comment of your own can easily be seen as a sign of approval of what you’re relaying.”

That showed an absolute lack of knowledge of how Twitter works and the purpose and value of retweets. But it is still listed in the guidelines despite being criticized by social media experts as nonsensical.

The latest revisions deal with deleting tweets and correcting erroneous tweets, which are both worthy topics to be covered. But leave it to the AP to address them in a curious fashion.

Here is the section on deleting tweets: allows us to delete tweets we’ve sent. Deletion, however, removes the tweet only from and perhaps some other Twitter clients. Tweets of ours that have been retweeted or reposted elsewhere will still remain publicly visible. If you believe a tweet should be deleted, contact a Nerve Center manager to discuss the situation.

The section on erroneous tweets also mentions the mysterious, or is it ominous, Nerve Center.

Serious errors need to be brought to the attention of a Nerve Center manager and the appropriate regional or vertical desk.

I know the guidelines are meant to ensure that reporters and anyone else at AP that uses Twitter does so without embarrassing the company, but these latest revisions only underscore what happens when an organization uses an old media brain to deal with new media issues.

If the AP hadn’t been quite so clumsy in the manner in which they handled the revisions, it is likely no one would have paid much attention to them, instead of ensuring that every revision from now on will be scrutinized by others in the media, both new and old.

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