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.