Personal Democracy Plus Our premium content network. LEARN MORE You are not logged in. LOG IN NOW >

Be Social, But Don't Get Personal: WaPo Tells Reporters How (Not) to Tweet

BY Nancy Scola | Monday, September 28 2009

Now that everyone has a megaphone, even a teeny one, how will powers-that-be respond when employees post to Twitter or engage on Facebook in a recognizably human way?

One DC institution, the Washington Post, has decided to crack down on social media usage by its staff. They're trying to brush the clay off the line between journalists and the rest of society that has accumulated in recent years. "When using social networking tools for reporting or for our personal lives, we must remember that Washington Post journalists are always Washington Post journalists," read the new guidelines. The directive was issued after Raju Narisetti, one of the Post's editors, tweeted comments after Senator Robert Byrd took a tumble, comments like "How about term limits. Or retirement age. Or commonsense to prevail." (Narisetti probably didn't help his cause any by archly tweeting while his bosses were considering the policy, “For flagbearers of free speech, some newsroom execs have the weirdest double standards when it comes to censoring personal views.")

Locking your account isn't enough of a prophylactic for the WaPo. Narisetti's Twitter account, it seems, was private and limited to 90 followers, but he's since shut it down anyway.

It's a curiously black-and-white move by the Post. WaPo ombudsperson Andrew Alexander questioned Narisett's Byrd tweet on the grounds that it could be seen as advocating a particular policy position, like one in favor of term-limits or retiring senators once they reach the age of a bajillion years old. Yet it comes at the same time that the digital side of the paper is hiring journalists, like health care blogger-reporter Ezra Klein, who blur the always-fuzzy distinction between opinion and reporting.

Also off limits to Post journalists now, joining any group that could reflect bias, or accepting "virtual gifts" from partisan causes. So keep that Ron Paul button to yourself.

News Briefs

RSS Feed today >

First POST: Scary Monsters

Facebook opens up about its experiments on tweaking voting behavior; breaking news in the FCC net neutrality battle; getting hard data on civic tech's impact on political efficacy; and much, much more. GO

thursday >

First POST: System-Gaming

Why techies interested in political reform are facing challenges; the latest data on Democratic voter contacts in 2014; Hungary's anti-Internet tax demonstrations are getting huge; and much, much more. GO

wednesday >

First POST: Gimme Shelter

The link between intimate partner violence and surveillance tech; the operational security set-up that connected Laura Poitras, Glenn Greenwald and Edward Snowden; how Senate Dems are counting on tech to hold their majority; and much, much more. GO

tuesday >

First POST: Tribes

Edward Snowden on the Internet's impact on political polarization; trying to discern Hillary Clinton's position on NSA reform; why Microsoft is bullish on civic tech; and much, much more GO

monday >

First POST: Inventions

How voter data-sharing among GOP heavyweights is still lagging; why Facebook's News Feed scares news publishers; Google's ties to the State Department; and much, much more. GO

friday >

First POST: Spoilers

How the GOP hasn't fixed its tech talent gap; the most tech-savvy elected official in America, and the most tech-savvy state-wide candidate; and much, much more. GO

More