You will have read in this blog last July about the implications that social media tool Twitter has on traditional news mediums. Now, one of the world’s largest news wire services, Reuters, is taking those implications very seriously:
Reuters are attempting to answer a lot of questions about how social media and Twitter in particular affect news coverage. Included in their new rules is a requirement that their journalists do not break news over Twitter before doing so over the wire, as well as several rules aimed at counteracting perceptions of individual bias.
Requiring their journalists to break news over the wire first is a business decision, and a fair one. For a journalist to break a story by other means and not for who they work for would be akin to an Apple employee selling a palate of iPads before the product’s release date.
Of more interest is the requirement that Reuters employees do not post anything that may indicate personal bias on Facebook, as well as the requirement that they maintain separate business and personal Twitter accounts.
This is because social media has allowed us to know so much more about the people who provide services to us, the public. In days gone by, a byline was merely a name in news reporting (Opinion was obviously another story). Now, with access to journalists via social media we can find out their likes and dislikes, partner’s names, see pictures of their pets, you get the idea…
Clearly then, Reuters is right not to want their journalists’ views broadcast across the social mediasphere. Reporting is meant to be subjective and impartial – and whether it conforms to this regularly or not – clearly knowing a journalist’s personal stance on an issue will affect how we see their reporting of it.
One thing that does puzzle me though is Reuters frowning upon their journalists following certain sources on Twitter. As a journalist, I find Twitter an extremely useful source for story ideas. The key however is to follow sources with a wide variety of opinions, which is why (to give an example) politically I follow Liberal, Labor, Greens and Independents.
It will be interesting to see if the other major wire services including Associated Press and Agence France-Presse, or AAP in Australia take heed and look at instituting similar rules.