The inevitable has happened. The freedom of ‘user-generated content’ is making the world of journalism squirm in its orbit. All that gung-ho on journalism and social media had to stop somewhere, right?! It all started when Raju Narisetti, a top Washington Post editor, tweeted his unfiltered thoughts on health care, term limits and deficits (this is a Google cache). Needless to say, it ruffled quite a few feathers at The Post. The WaPo was quick to come back with a set of guidelines for journalists using social media. Narisetti has since closed down his Twitter account and, as the Omblog’s Andrew Alexander claims, realized that “it’s a clear perception problem.” Reactions to this incident are interestingly varied. While some journalists denounce Narisetti’s decision to cancel the Twitter account, most feel that it is important, at least, to constantly be aware of the weight of one’s words on a site like Twitter which reaches many. There has been vicious backlash, like this Twitter post:
Some journalists pose the question: Is this kind of political correctness an insult to readers? Others belive that this kind of policy-making and regulating social media exchanges with the public makes the journalists seem insincere. The public, understandably, is of the opinion, “If we wanted news, we would go to a newspaper!” Social media sites are the only places where a journalist can say what he really thinks. However, that journalists have opinions, seems unacceptable, according to a recent post on TechCrunch.
Interestingly, the majority of the opposition comes from bloggers, but the journalism fraternity is yet to take a clear stand. The New York Times has tried to suggest that maybe, just maybe, WaPo knows what it’s talking about.
The other end of the spectrum seems to be going straight for the jugular: Should journalists be on Twitter at all? Apparently, more than 70% of NYTimes’ readers do NOT think so. More than 455 members answered a poll on the home page of InsightLab (the New York Times‘ online community/focus group). Journalists are not too happy.
Update: WaPo’s Andrew Alexander has since posted a justification of the newspaper’s social media policies, and says the newspaper plans to refine the guidelines further.