NPR memo warns staffers about social media posts undermining the network’s credibility

Last Wednesday, NPR education team blogger Anya Kamenetz complained on Twitter NPRTWEETthat “only the white guys get back to me” when reaching out to diverse sources. After being criticized for the tweet, Kamenetz said that “I take personal responsibility [for the tweet and] I don’t think it should reflect on my employer.”

But it does, says a just-released NPR memo. It reminds the public radio staff to always ask before posting something: “Is it helping my journalism, or is it hurting my journalism?”

The memo from NPR’s Standards & Practices supervising editor:

From: Mark Memmott
Sent: Tuesday, July 08, 2014 2:24 PM
To: News-All Staff
Subject: Reminder: There Is No Privacy On The Web, And ‘Personal’ Pages Are Not Safe Zones

“If you wouldn’t say it on the air, don’t say it on the Web.”

That’s been the basic guidance for quite a few years.

In reality, Twitter and other social media sites allow us to show more of our personalities than we might on the air or in a blog post.

BUT, though the words may be on “personal” Twitter or Facebook accounts, what we say can reflect on NPR and raise questions about our ability to be objective.

Matt Thompson offers a test. Before posting something about your work or a news event or an issue, even if you’re putting it on what you think of as a personal page, ask this question: “Is it helping my journalism, or is it hurting my journalism?”

Here’s a bit more from the Ethics Handbook:

“We acknowledge that nothing on the Web is truly private. Even on purely recreational or cultural sites and even if what we’re doing is personal and not identified as coming from someone at NPR, we understand that what we say and do could still reflect on NPR. So we do nothing that could undermine our credibility with the public, damage NPR’s standing as an impartial source of news, or otherwise jeopardize NPR’s reputation. In other words, we don’t behave any differently than we would in any public setting or on an NPR broadcast.”

Also, despite what many say, retweets should be viewed AS endorsements. Again, from the handbook:

“Tweet and retweet as if what you’re saying or passing along is information that you would put on the air or in a ‘traditional’ news story. If it needs context, attribution, clarification or ‘knocking down,’ provide it.”

(July 8, 2014)

* P.J. Vogt: “The upside of that stupid NPR tweet” (
* Earlier: Sometimes it’s best to keep your work problems off Twitter (