The American Society of News Editors (ASNE) has issued a social media guide: "10 Best Practices for Social Media". It is intended to be a framework for news outlets, starting by "reviewing the social media rules of leading mainstream news organizations and identifying the best-practice themes at the heart of the best policies".
It is organized by the 2010-11 Ethics and Values Committee and written by Politico's James Hohmann.
The guide enumerated 10 guidelines: each of them has a brief explanation of the theme, a "teachable moment" and excerpts from social media guidelines from news organization that handled the theme particularly well.
In the appendix the guide also collects social media policies from various news organizations.
These are the 10 takeaways:
- Traditional ethics rules still apply online
- Assume everything you write online will become public
- Use social media to engage with readers, but professionally
- Break news on your website, not on Twitter
- Beware of perceptions
- Independently authenticate anything found on a social networking site
- Always identify yourself as a journalist
- Social networks are tools not toys
- Be transparent and admit when you're wrong online
- Keep internal deliberations confidential
Amongst other comments on the ASNE's guide, Steve Buttry, TBD's Director of Community Engagement, while praising and appreciating the initiative, suggested that it appeared that editors, while recognizing the importance social tools have reached, still remain "afraid of social media" and that "their need to control remains an impediment to innovation".
He deduced these impressions for example by the fact the report is a PDF, which - in his opinion - indicated the group is continuing its print orientation, while as a blog entry it would have encouraged comments and sharing ideas.
The point that appeared to have raised more concerns is the one about Twitter and breaking news on sites first. Contrary to what ASNE suggested, journalists should break news on Twitter, Buttry wrote.
"Journalists who see news break or confirm an important fact in a developing story can report the news with a tweet quicker than they can post a story. Say you'll be posting a story shortly and post a link when you get it. But an organization that prohibits tweeting before you post online is as foolish as the silly old newspaper fear of "scooping ourselves" by publishing stories online before they have been in print. I'll repeat: If you have the news first, you scooped everyone, not yourself", he wrote.
Buttry reported the answer he received from Pam Fine, ASNE Ethics Committee co-chair.
She wrote: "Steve, I think some of your edits are valuable but I strongly disagree with the spirit of your opening salvo. I believe rather than being guided by fear, editors want to use professional practices they believe give them competitive advantage and are compatible with their mission and goals. That is typical with the adoption of any innovation. What you describe as "fear," "control" and "restrictiveness" may be seen by others as having standards".
You can find the whole ASNE report here.