This week an internal memo to staff at the Associated Press on personal use of social media went public. Recent highly publicized news events, including the Casey Anthony verdict and New York Senate gay marriage vote, apparently inspired AP staffers to share their personal thoughts via Twitter, a no-no according to company social media policy. Here’s a bit from the memo, issued by AP Deputy Managing Editor for Standards and Production Tom Kent:
AP’s News Values and Principles state that anyone who works for AP must be mindful that opinions they express may damage the AP’s reputation as an unbiased source of news. This point is contained in our social network guidelines as well. Failure to abide by these rules can lead to disciplinary action. The vast majority of our tweets on these stories — and on other issues in the news — have been completely in line with our guidelines. They pose no problem at all, and are consistent with the importance of AP staffers being active on social networks.
While the memo didn’t call any out any specific tweets or their authors, I feel confident the offending tweeters heard directly from their superiors about this, and the memo is a refresher for everyone else. AP had to do this–going into a presidential election season that is sure to be one of the most hard-fought in recent memory, people need to be reassured that even if the reporters covering the news have strong opinions, they will be able to examine both sides of an issue for the reader’s sake. And Twitter just doesn’t have enough space to allow that thorough examination.