The Associated Press' rigorous standards regarding social media just got a little bit tougher.
Most news organisations who are serious about advancing their digital strategy already encourage their staff to use social media in connection to their work and have guidelines to show them how to do it - take for instance the BBC, which has extensive social media guidelines. Then there's the social media editor, whose job it is to make social media efforts run smoothly.
"We don't just view social media as a publishing platform or distribution platform, but also as a newsgathering platform," Lou Ferrara, the AP's managing editor for sports, entertainment, and interactive media told The Editors Weblog in July after the organisation's last update to social media guidelines. Given that social media is such a valuable but complex and multipurpose tool, how specific should social media guidelines be? What should a good social media editor do to run the tightest ship in the twittersphere?
According to the AP, social media guidelines should be very specific. In a bid to optimise its social media efforts, the AP has just altered its social media guidelines to expressly forbid retweeting opinionated material that is not clearly marked as reported information. If a retweet from a staff member's account seems like it is expressing an opinion, even a disclaimer such as "retweets do not mean I agree", or "retweets are not endorsements" is not sufficient to protect the staff member from being disciplined.
Poynter has displayed the updated extract of the official AP social media guidelines, which includes examples of incorrectly retweeted material and suggests ways in which AP staff can "judiciously retweet opinionated material" by using quotation marks and colons to clearly mark that the retweet is simply a reported opinion.
It seems that the AP's next social media editor will be expected to enforce these rigorous new standards by ensuring "that branded AP social media accounts are engaging and timely sources of breaking news", according to the AP Careers website.
The idea of a social media editor is still a relatively new concept - although one that has caught on quickly - but what exactly is the role of a social media editor in an organization as large as the Associated Press?
The AP defines the social media editor as some who will be required to lead the charge on social media use and "Evangelize the changing landscape and need for change around social media and new consumer habits within the wider AP operations".
Most significantly, perhaps, in the eyes of the AP a social media editor should help staff report the news better by working "with AP journalists on how the use of social media can improve our sourcing and reporting across formats, particularly during breaking news situations and to break news."