Accuracy in Media

The Associated Press, which recently updated its social media guidelines, sent out an email On Wednesday to remind employees just what those guidelines were in light of staff arrests at Zucotti Park on Tuesday.

According to an email obtained by the Daily Intel, the AP was concerned about the employees in question violating the company’s Twitter rules.

In relation to AP staff being taken into custody at the Occupy Wall Street story, we’ve had a breakdown in staff sticking to policies around social media and everyone needs to get with their folks now to tell them to knock it off.

We have had staff tweet – BEFORE THE MATERIAL WAS ON THE WIRE – that staff were arrested.

That breaks the company policy of not breaking news they haven’t published, no matter the format.

Employees should run “sensitive official business” through editors and corporate communications when they feel the urge to tweet about something newsworthy.

That approval process undoubtedly makes breaking news via Twitter less timely or newsworthy while making employees chafe a bit but is necessary for news organizations like the AP which must protect its reputation and brand by doing so. And journalists have a responsibility to report events accurately which can be hard to do in the heat of the moment and in just 140 characters.

On the other hand the policy underscores how news organizations like the AP are struggling with how to effectively deal with social media, especially Twitter where information moves at such a rapid pace that many users struggle to keep up with the flood of tweets.

This along with  Facebook and the advent of smartphones and other technological advances has turned news reporting on its head.

Last week CNN admitted as much when they fired 40-50 employees involved in photojournalism and editing and archiving taped footage and increased its commitment to citizen journalism through its iReports.

The AP is worried about tweets superseding the wire service it is known for and rightfully so.  In a short period of time Twitter has become news wire of the digital age and a real threat to AP’s business model.

This is a process that will continue to evolve but will only be solved once reporters and editors work together on finding a long term solution to a very real problem rather than fight with each other.  If they don’t they might as well kiss their jobs goodbye.


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