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AP Tells Staff to Keep Their Opinions to Themselves

Concerned that some of their employees are a little too open with their opinions on social media, the Associated Press has issued an internal memo to remind them about the proper use of Twitter and Facebook.

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According to The Cutline, AP deputy managing editor for standards and production Tom Kent sent an email memo [2] to the staff on Wednesday outlining his concern that the staff may be going a little too far when using social media. Kent told the staff that “In at least two recent cases, we have seen a few postings on social networks by AP staffers expressing personal opinions on issues in the news,” mentioning posts on the New York Senate gay marriage vote and on the Casey Anthony trial.

Kent added that “These posts undermine the credibility of our colleagues who have been working so hard to assure balanced and unbiased coverage of these issues.” He also referred employees to the company’s social media guidelines [3] and warned of potential disciplinary action if these guidelines are violated.

The AP has a right to be concerned about social media. Facebook, and in particular Twitter, pose a very real threat to the company’s business. As information moves around the globe at an ever increasing speed social media has become a de facto news wire to millions of people including many members of the news media. Even though the AP is a creator of news content as well as a distributor, its business model as a wire service is threatened nonetheless by the vast expansion of social media.

But what seems to concern Kent even more than that is the potential for social media comments by the staff exposing the inherently liberal nature of the AP and destroying the carefully crafted idea that the wire service is unbiased and balanced.

Kent and the AP may have fired a warning shot in the battle between social media and news organizations but they are likely to lose the war as it overtakes their business.