AP memo: ‘Think before you tweet. It seems simple enough,’ but….

AP explains: “This was an attempt to get more attention for the tweet, but it clearly violates AP policies on steering clear of opinion or advocacy.”

“Don’t leave your instincts behind in the rush to put out a tweet,” Associated Press staffers are told. Here’s the memo from AP standards editor Tom Kent and his deputy, Dave Minthorn.

From: AP Standards
Sent: Monday, July 15, 2013 11:37 PM
Subject: “From the Standards Center” – Social media and breaking news: avoiding pitfalls

Think before you tweet. It seems simple enough, and it’s a rule of thumb that can prevent the vast majority of missteps that a journalist might make on social networks. But given some recent issues that have come up on Twitter, it’s a good time to review some best practices, courtesy of Social Media Editor Eric Carvin.
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Among the recent problems:

* A tweet that a staffer sent from the @AP Twitter account, related to the abortion fight in Texas, included the hashtag #StandWithWendy — a reference to Wendy Davis, a state senator who’s been fighting to block a new abortion law. This was an attempt to get more attention for the tweet, but it clearly violates AP policies on steering clear of opinion or advocacy.

* AP staff tweets related to the Zimmerman verdict largely were very smart and professional, but a lot of critics pointed to a tweet that was critical of the verdict from a former, temporary staffer who was not employed by AP at the time of the tweet. The widespread reaction serves as a reminder of how a single tweet from an individual can affect the greater AP./CONTINUES

AP policies are clear about the lines that mustn’t be crossed in social media postings and tweets. Reviewing some guidance:

* Re-read the AP Statement on News Values and Principles and the Social Media Guidelines for AP Employees. These documents offer detailed advice on avoiding any sort of public communication related to contentious issues that might be perceived as biased or opinionated.

* Remember that tweets and other social posts are public forms of communication. Because of where you’re employed, it will be perceived as coming from AP. Be objective and neutral as in our news content.

* Hashtags can be a useful tool for getting more exposure to a tweet, but consider whether a hashtag you’re planning to include might be seen as advocating a position on a divisive issue. The top priority here is meeting AP’s high standards for balanced reporting.

· Before you tweet, think a moment about how it might be perceived. Getting this right is, in large part, a matter of common sense — don’t leave your instincts behind in the rush to put out a tweet.

· If you’re on the fence about an approach to a tweet, play it safe. And you can also feel free to call on AP’s extensive resources for helping you make these decisions. They start with your own manager but include AP’s standards experts — reach them at standards@ap.org — as well as social media editors Eric Carvin (ecarvin@ap.org) and Fergus Bell (fbell@ap.org) and the manager on duty at the Nerve Center (nervecenterstaff@ap.org).

Tom Kent
Dave Minthorn


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