Sky News, the 24-hour British and international satellite broadcaster, has issued new social media guidelines that forbids its journalists from reposting information from any Twitter user that is not an employee of the company.
In an email sent to the staff on Tuesday, Sky News also warned journalists to stick to their own beat and to not tweet about non-work subjects from their company-affiliated accounts.
More specifically, the policy states:
“So, to reiterate, don’t tweet when it is not a story to which you have been assigned or a beat which you work.
“Where a story has been Tweeted by a Sky News journalist who is assigned to the story it is fine, desirable in fact, that it is retweeted by other Sky News staff.
“Do not retweet information posted by other journalists or people on Twitter. Such information could be wrong and has not been through the Sky News editorial process.”
The company said that they wanted “to ensure that our journalism is joined up across platforms, there is sufficient editorial control of stories reported by Sky News journalists and that the news desks remain the central hub for information going out on all our stories.”
Sky News isn’t the first news organization struggling with Twitter and other forms of social media.
The Associated Press raised a ruckus with its reporters in November when it issued guidelines that told them to change retweets so that they don’t appear to be a personal endorsement of the original tweet.
What makes this policy odd is that Sky News used Twitter to help break Arab Spring stories and riots in England, and has been considered a digital innovator by observers.
This policy apparently is a result of Sky News not having the same information transmitted across all platforms, with employees’ use of Twitter being the major offender.
Plus, just three years ago they hired a Twitter correspondent.
While I understand the need for Sky News and other news organizations to make sure their message is unified, asking reporters, on the other hand, to clear their tweets through a central news desk defeats the purpose of using social media, which relies on the rapid dissemination of information.
Even if the central news desk responds positively in a few minutes it will be old news by the time the reporter gets to tweet about it.
Using social media really comes down to personal responsibility and accountability. By issuing these guidelines Sky News and the AP are essentially telling their reporters that they don’t trust them to use good judgment. At a time when morale is already low in the news industry, this won’t help to build trust between reporters and management.
Free speech is apparently not so free when it comes to social media.