Think Before You Re-Tweet: ‘L.A. Times’ Updates Social Media Rules for Journos

By: E&P Staff

Updated guidelines for Los Angeles Times newsroom employees using social media emphasize that just about anything posted online will be viewed as reflecting on the newspaper’s credibility and reputation.

“Your professional life and your personal life are intertwined in the online world, just as they are offline,” Times Editor Russ Stanton and Assistant Managing Editor Henry Fuhrmann wrote in a memo to employees. “Attempts, for instance, to distinguish your high school friends from your professional associates are fine, but in all spaces one should adhere to the principle that as an editorial employee you are responsible for maintaining The Times’ credibility.”

The new guidelines update standards issued last March by the Times.

“Integrity is our most important commodity: Avoid writing or posting anything that would embarrass The Times or compromise your ability to do your job,” is listed first among the guidelines.

The guidelines repeatedly emphasize that an editorial employee’s professional and personal life “will merge online” regardless of personal or technological efforts to separate them. “Even if you use privacy tools (determining who can view your page or profile, for instance), assume that everything you write, exchange or receive on a social media site is public,” the guidelines say.

If a reporter “friends” a particular interest group in social media, he should also “friend” any group that takes an opposing view, the Times suggests. “Be aware of inadvertent disclosures or the perception of disclosures,” it adds. “For example, consider that ‘friending’ a professional contact may publicly identify that person as one of your sources.”

And the paper says journalists should make the verification efforts online as they would with any other source. “When transmitting information online — as in re-Tweeting material from other sources — apply the same standards and level of caution you would in more formal publication,” the guidelines say.

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