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New York TimesTwitter has played a critical role in the past two presidential elections and remains to be one of the best resources to catch up on the goings-on at Capitol Hill. However, as of late, it’s become increasingly imperative that what is said about politics on social media is carefully expressed, especially from members of the media.

Announcing on Thursday that he was tired of “policing” his journalists on social media, David Baquet, The Time’s executive editor, published an updated and expanded set of its social media guidelines that dramatically limit what its reporters can and can’t say on their personal accounts.

The main reason: “If our journalists are perceived as biased or if they engage in editorializing on social media, that can undercut the credibility of the entire newsroom,” stated Baquet to his staff in the new guidelines.

Among the editor’s directive are:

  • Journalists must not express partisan opinions, promote political views, endorse candidates, make offensive comments or do anything else that may undercut The Time’s journalistic reputation;
  • Journalists must be mindful of not taking sides, especially when it involved politics;
  • All social media platforms will conform to these social media guidelines as everything journalists posts or “like” online is to some degree public;
  • Journalists are discouraged from making customer service complaints on social media;
  • Always treat others with respect on social media.

After reading this bit of news on Monday, I remember my first thought was, “do I agree with this announcement?” This is a question I am still going back and forth with. From a PR perspective, I understand the need for these guidelines. For instance, if one of our clients asks us to manager their social media accounts, you better believe there’s a strategy in place. And for many of the same reasons that The Times has. We don’t want to put anything out there that could jeopardize our clients’ reputations.

On the other hand, one of the big draws of The Times is its wide range of personalities. There are a number of journalists there like Maggie Haberman, Mike Isaac and Farhad Manjoo, who have acquired loyal audiences thanks to their somewhat unorthodox social media practices.

However, Haberman did comment on these new guidelines, saying “Before you post, ask yourself: Is this something that needs to be said, is it something that needs to be said by you, and is it something that needs to be said by you right now?  If you answer no to any of these three, it’s best not to rush ahead.” From the sounds of it, she’s not as opposed to the restrictions as some would’ve guessed.

So what are your thoughts on The Times’ social media guidelines?

Breanne Krager
Breanne Krager
A former HMA Public Relations employee.

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