Monday, July 11, 2011

AP to reporters - Keep opinions off social media

In an effort to keep perceptions of media credibility from falling further (see earlier post), the AP is reminding its staffers to keep their opinions about breaking news stories and current events off of social media (even if private).  Drawing on examples of postings on two recent stories (NY State Senate vote on gay marriage, and Casey Anthony trial verdict), and the AP's own standards (outlined in their "News Values and Principles"), AP deputy managing editor for standards and production Tom Kent argued that expressing opinions "undermine the credibility of our colleagues, who have been working so hard to ensure balanced and unbiased coverage of these issues.  While recognizing the importance of social media as a tool for distributing and raising awareness of their stories, apparently speaking plainly about your views and opinions through other channels "can lead to disciplinary action."
What makes this more interesting than just another old media reaction to new media, and the loss of the ability to control information flows, is that this is the AP talking.  The AP who announced several years ago that they were moving from balanced to "accountability" journalism in their reporting of politics and current events.  According to the AP's memos, that includes "scrapping the stone-faced approach to journalism that accepts politicians' statements at face value and offers equal treatment to all sides of an argument ... reporters ... should call it as they see it."
So let's see - reporters offering their opinions and framing their reporting from their individual perspective is expected in their AP stories, but offering their opinions through other media is forbidden - all because showing your opinion might affect AP's credibility.  If revealing an opinion harms credibility, it seems like that's already gone down the tubes with the shift to "accountability journalism."

Source: "No Comment: AP Warns Journalists on Social Media Use," Media Daily News

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