November 17, 2011
Associated Press & Twitter at the Altar? Hardly Hardly...
Just when you think the two shall meet at the altar or even three might meet at the altar, there's a glitch aka one of those social media hiccups that more established companies have a hard time handling.
In the news this week, there's more clashing between social media aka Twitter in this case and traditional media. In other words, the two still don't meet, don't understand each other and the rules are yet to be defined.
According to the Washington Post, Twitter has gone after the Associated Press for upbraiding its staffers for tweeting during Tuesday’s predawn Occupy Wall Street raid, during which AP reporters and many others were arrested. As written up in New York Magazine, the wire service sent its employees this e-mail:
In relation to AP staff being taken into custody at the Occupy Wall Street story, we’ve had a breakdown in staff sticking to policies around social media and everyone needs to get with their folks now to tell them to knock it off. We have had staff tweet — BEFORE THE MATERIAL WAS ON THE WIRE — that staff were arrested.
Crikey. Tweets came pouring out in response. The below was taken from the personal Twitter account of Mandy Jenkins, social media guru for the Huffington Post:
AP staffers scolded for tweeting ahead of the wires from #OWS. http://bit.ly/smSmj8 i.e. The AP tries its damndest to be irrelevant.
Lou Ferrara, who is the AP’s managing editor for sports, entertainment, lifestyles and interactive piped in to comment:
Reason No. 1 why AP staffers should not tweet out news that hasn’t yet been produced on an AP platform, Ferrara said, is that “we put news on our products first. That’s what our customers expect.”
Reason No. 2 is a strong imperative: “As a news organization, our first priority is the safety and well being of our people, and we shouldn’t be putting anything out till we have a clear understanding” of exactly what is going on. That’s standard AP policy for situations in which reporters are taken into custody, Ferrara emphasized, both in the United States and abroad.
Frankly, having formal "control" around this isn't so much the answer as much as it is setting guidelines and letting employees know why random tweeting without knowing the "facts" can be harmful.
I'm astounded still how often Twitter is used at times where it isn't the best platform. I use Twitter extensively and yet sometimes email or text messaging may be a better way to "find out information", clarify it and then send out a tweet...or not.
If you don't understand what's going on, and you're dying to tweet because its so easy to hit that button, perhaps use the 3 minute rule, the one that can save you a lot of hassle later on. Hmm, perhaps I could get a second opinion before I send out a random tweet. Secondly, think twice about what your tweet, which lives on the net forever could meet for your reputation and who you're tweeting about. Third, a direct message, text message or email clarifying the details and getting a better understanding before you tweet is just smart and thorough "reporting." If Twitter isn't reporting when its now breaking news, I don't know what is. Sure, it's a marketing machine, sure it's an engagement tool, sure it's a way to interact with customers and friends, but it's also a short form news reporting tool. (and a great one when you're on the ground, particularly in a crisis situation).
Clearly, I drink the Twitter coolaid and love the tool, but I do think we should encourage people to use the 3 minute rule before they tweet more often, particularly around more sensitive situations, the result of which could just "up" the quality and callibre of the tweets that get sent out.
Quotes and references on the "news" were taken from the Washington Post article who covered this story at length. For the rest of the read, click here.
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