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Last night the Guardian released details of an email sent to Sky News employees that outlined new social media guidelines.

Of course, the most sensational part of this - that staff now seem to be banned from retweeting rival "journalists or people on Twitter" - has been highlighted by many amid cries of ‘they just don’t get it’.

Yet the point made below, regarding editorial verification, seems all too fair.

Do not retweet information posted by other journalists or people on Twitter. Such information could be wrong and has not been through the Sky News editorial process."

Sadly, what probably started as an entirely valid exercise to lay out guidelines around fact-checking and the like, seems to have been taken over by the brand police. The clamp down on personal use of Twitter seems far too restrictive, putting the profile of the brand above that of the individual. 

Where a story has been Tweeted by a Sky News journalist who is assigned to the story it is fine, desirable in fact, that it is retweeted by other Sky News staff.”

One the best ways to develop influence is to talk and interact with your peers, but when you leave a role - you take that with you. At least some of the theory here seems to be that if journalists don't talk to others, the influence remains tied to the Sky brand.

The email also apparently warns Sky News journalists to "stick to your own beat" and not to tweet about non-work subjects from their professional accounts.

So, to reiterate, don't tweet when it is not a story to which you have been assigned or a beat which you work."

Again, if an individual choses to separate work and personal accounts – this is actually fair. It isn't exactly best practice, but for some reporters it’s preferred. 

Last year when ITV News snapped up one of the rising stars of the BBC, political correspondent Laura Kuenssberg, to take the newly created role of business editor, debate circulated around what was to become of her Twitter feed.

She was - and still is - one of the most high profile UK journalists on Twitter, using the site to deliver breaking news. In the end, she simply changed the name of her feed from @bbclaura to @itvlaurak, taking over 75,000 followers as she did so. 

As Twitter is used more and more regularly by journalists, feeds in some cases become valid sources with huge followings.

Though the argument over who owns this depends on the circumstances, it’s understandable as to why Sky would want to introduce guidelines around use – protecting itself in the process.

It’s just a shame that this email, if accurate, seems to have been hijacked by those with other ideas. 

Vikki Chowney

Published 8 February, 2012 by Vikki Chowney

Vikki is head of community at TMW. You can follow her on Twitter or Google+

249 more posts from this author

Comments (6)

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Stephen Waddington

Stephen Waddington, Chief Engagement Officer at Ketchum

Its no surprise that we're debating social media, news gathering and publication. The editorial process has taken 300 years to evolve. Social media still less than a decade old.

The new Sky guidelines contain good points on verification but are wrapped up with strong arm brand tactics.

They'll likely evolve in time.

over 4 years ago


Paul Dawson

You're right, this has been hijacked, as I'm not sure "they don't get it" is fair in this instance.

Looks to me like SKY is trying to remain a credible and authoritative source of news.

Consequently, this is an editorial, not brand, edict designed to protect that integrity.

It is the equivalent of the guidelines that tell on-air reporters to say something like "we are getting unconfirmed reports" if they are just repeating hearsay or third hand reports.

Definitely a hijack. Good spot Vikki.

over 4 years ago



Human nature tells us we like to turn everything into a negative. It is also rich this coming from the Guardian, who are king of self-branding!

We should actually be pleased that a large organisation like BSKYB has realised the importance of social media and the part their staff play in that role.

So many organisations tread a thin line with no guidelines as no-one wants to take that responsibility should something go wrong.

Any chance of seeing an orginal document? I find it hard to believe all this info was on 'an email'. I would assume a much more professional document would have more notice taken to it?

over 4 years ago


Gaylene Ravenscroft

It's the same story of brands wanting to control their messaging out there in the digital world, which is simply impossible. As a result, damaging natural expression and social behaviours internally, which in turn will impact their reputation.

I can understand why they would want to do this, of course they want to protect their IP and reputation. Although the ideal would be finding a balance between managing the environment and processes, not controlling it.

over 4 years ago

Mat Oram

Mat Oram, Head of Customer Care at Peto

Agreed Stephen. We're learning by experience at the moment here at Peto. We're small and nimble enough to not warrant the need for a guide.

Such a dictatorial guide is a great idea in theory, but will end up stifling creativity and free speech, meaning lower moral and frustration amongst staff that the company (sky) simply doesn't quite get it / trust their staff.

Will be interesting to see where other corporates go with this

over 4 years ago

Joanna Pieters

Joanna Pieters, Director at Time WIzard

I'm sure that Sky can see the problems with their position, but have felt the need to draw up clear rules.

The challenge for a large organisation is to keep its guidelines relevant and usable in a fast-moving field. If Sky has a group looking at this regularly and having open internal discussions they'll probably be able to enforce and evolve it effectively without it becoming too stifling. If this is an edict that is set and left, it will either increasingly be 'forgotten' as the grey areas in practice become apparent but not addressed, or will, as Mat says, simply frustrate good staff.

over 4 years ago

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