University of Tennessee reporter quits after being punished for violating paper’s social media policy

Wes Tripp resigned from The University of Tennessee Daily Beacon after being punished for violating the student newspaper’s social media policy by publicly criticizing its state Senate endorsement and amendment position.

He writes:

I specifically violated the following rule:beacon You may not write or post negative content about The Daily Beacon online.

I disagree with the interpretation that my comments were negative. I disagreed with the column’s content in a respectful manner, apparently however as a staff member if I disagree about something the Beacon publishes I’m supposed to keep my mouth shut. No one should ever fear or be kept from expressing their opinions in a respectful manner.

As a result, I was suspended from all social media activity for the Beacon for the remainder of the semester. My byline would no longer include my twitter handle and I had to remove any mention of The Daily Beacon from my Facebook or Twitter bios. I was not suspended from writing for the Beacon.

Tripp (left) says he decided to resign “because I will not work for a public organization that denies my First Amendment right to publicly express my opinions.” He writes in an email that the news editor told him “it really hurts her to see me ‘start up a rallying call to denounce [the Beacon] and tarnish its name'” He adds that editors “wanted professional courtesy, aka me keeping my mouth shut.”

Editor-in-chief Claire Dodson confirms Tripp “didn’t follow social media policy, which states that you can’t say negative things about the Daily Beacon online.” She says the policy, drafted earlier this year, was modeled after social media guidelines used by Reuters, the Washington Post and other news organizations.

Tripp, she says, violated the policy once before – “he tweeted potentially libelous things” – and was reprimanded.

Update — Tripp tells Romenesko readers: “The tweet that Claire mentions was one in which I referred to Florida State Quarterback Jameis Winston as a rapist.

“As an employee of The Daily Beacon, I came to realize that my social media presence reflects back on the Beacon and to an extent the University. I recognized that I needed to be careful from that point on about what I posted on Twitter or Facebook.

“However, I still disagree that my most recent actions were a violation of the social media policy.”

* Why I resigned from The Daily Beacon (
* “No” on Amendment 1; Briggs for state Senate (

The newspaper’s social media policy is after the jump.

The Daily Beacon Social Media Policy
As journalists at an editorially independent student newspaper, the editors and staff writers at The Daily Beacon possess the important ability to report freely across all mediums, including various forms of social media. We encourage staff members to take advantage of these resources as means of reporting, promoting content and building an active online relationship with our readers.

Although the Beacon endorses unrestricted freedom of speech on these platforms, it is necessary to outline several guidelines and caveats for staff members who are active online. This policy applies to multi-media, social networking websites, blogs and wikis for both professional and personal use. As employees of The Daily Beacon, and by extension, The University of Tennessee, you are representative of something larger than yourself. As such, employees of The Daily Beacon are expected to adhere to the following behavioral stipulations:

1. You may not write or post negative content about The Daily Beacon online.
2. You may not respond to any derogatory work-related tweets without first
consulting the editor-in-chief. When an official response is needed (or thought to
be needed), contact the editor-in-chief.
3. You may not slander any persons you have interacted with or may interact with
during your work for the paper. This includes, but is not limited to, sources, contacts and coworkers. These persons are to be treated with respect, regardless of your personal stance on their beliefs or actions.
4. Posts should not disclose any information that is confidential to The Daily Beacon or to any outside source that has disclosed private information to The Daily Beacon.
5. If employees comment on any aspect of The Daily Beacon business, they must clearly identify themselves and an employee and include a disclaimer, an example of which is: “the views expressed are mine alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Daily Beacon.
6. Remember: the Internet is a public space, so tweet responsibly. Use good judgment. Nothing you say online is ever completely deleted.
7. The Daily Beacon editor-in-chief reserves the right to terminate the employment of staff members who do not abide this policy.

Twitter handles will be printed with staff bylines and linked online, unless you express the desire for your account to remain private and/or unassociated with the Beacon. You may also create a Beacon-specific account for work purposes. The social media editor will follow the account you provide, and may re-tweet relevant content from your feed.

Failure to comply with these guidelines with result in the following measure:

First offense: A meeting with to discuss and correct the offense.

Second offense: Either the suspension or removal of your account from the paper, depending on the severity of the offense.

Third offense: Termination as a member of The Daily Beacon staff.

As a staff member at The Daily Beacon, you are required to adhere to these policies. Failure to do so will result in the consequences above.