The Associate Press caused a stir in the media community when it scolded employees on Wednesday for having tweeted abut the arrests of one AP staffer and photojournalist at the Occupy Wall Street protest in Zuccotti Park, New York - before the news reached the official AP news wire.
Staff were told in a high priority memo which, according to NYMag, said "we've had a breakdown in staff sticking to policies around social media and everyone needs to get with their folks now to tell them to knock it off".
The AP's social media handbook, which acts an employee's bible for the use of Twitter and Facebook, is very clear that journalists should not 'scoop the wire', so to speak.
This type of social media restriction is common practice for major news wires, Reuters also has a similar guidelines. From a business perspective, it makes sense to stop employees beating the wire - what good is a news wire if the information on it is old news?
Matthew Ingram of GigaOm argued that to attempt to bottle up news until it reached the wire was short sighted in the extreme stating that "twitter is the newswire now". Anthony De Rosa of Reuters, a company which clearly find themselves in a similar dilemma to the AP, also proclaimed that the fact it is easier for a reporter to tweet something than to send a report to the news wire is a problem. Social media is part of the brand identity of newswires and it also helps drive traffic to their websites. If your social media is slower than your competitors, then it is game set and match to your rival.
The Associated Press defended its actions today, announcing that their tweeting restrictions weren't, on this occasion, due to some Luddite mentality or the inability to abandon a business model unfit for the digital age, but arose rather from concern for its staff members, as Poynter reports.
In another memo sent by Lou Ferrara, VP of the Associated Press and a managing editor, staff were told "As a news organization, our first priority is the safety and well being of our people, and we shouldn't be putting anything out till we have a clear understanding" of the situation - whether those AP staff members are on America soil or abroad.
These precautions are sensible, particularly considering the risk faced by AP staff when arrested or captured while working as foreign correspondents in hostile environments. That said, the Associated Press will have a hard job convincing skeptics the next time a staffer beats the wire that its 'wire first, tweet later' attitude is a business model that will lead to a rosy future. Maybe Ingram and De Rosa have a point - does the wire needs to speed up to survive?