You may have read this from me before about other news organizations: The Associated Press social media guidelines raise important issues but stop short of providing the excellent advice I would hope for from the AP.
I won’t go into chapter and verse on the AP guidelines. They are an improvement on the fear-laden guidelines I have criticized from the American Society of News Editors (like ASNE, AP’s policy is a pdf, an odd choice), Washington Post, Wall Street Journal and Los Angeles Times. But they show too many glimpses of fear for me to support them.
The guidelines prompted enough internal questions that a managing editor, Lou Ferrara, sent out a memo saying the release of the guidelines was “coincidental” with the departure of Lauren McCullough as audience and engagement manager (she’s going to Breaking News).
I did see some good advice for journalists in the AP guidelines and they address some valid issues journalists should consider. I especially liked these encouragements for more social media conversations (I have said newsrooms need more conversations and fewer prohibitions):
You should consult with a manager before sharing photo or video outtakes. …
If you have any hesitation about a tweet or post, you should consult with your manager, regional desk or the Nerve Center before sending it.
While the context of those cautions is a bit more restrictive than I’d prefer, if these consultations are constructive conversations about smart and responsible social media use, then the guidelines will help AP staffers make better use of social media. Since I have criticized other news organizations for not trusting their staff’s judgment enough, I should also praise this:
All of AP’s social media guidelines rely on you to use your news judgment to determine if a piece of content is urgent enough that it should be filed to the wire.
However, this required conversation shows that the AP does not fully trust staff members’ judgment:
And in those cases in which you capture exclusive content, you should consult with a supervisor about how to share it on your personal social media account.
Some prohibitions in the guidelines didn’t receive enough thought or discussion:
Don’t break news that we haven’t published, no matter the format.
Did no one involved with these guidelines read how essential Twitter was to Brian Stelter’s reporting of the Joplin tornado for the New York Times? AP writers should be free and encouraged to be similarly resourceful.
Another ill-advised guideline:
Staffers should not directly upload or copy/paste content that has been published on an AP platform. It’s fine to link to that content in use on a member, customer or AP platform.
Actually, quotes from news stories make great tweets (or Facebook updates) with a link to the actual story. And copying and pasting ensures that you don’t misquote.
The AP’s viewpoint on social media is enough out of date that I suppose it’s fitting that it provides outdated information about Facebook, saying , “on Facebook, for example, it’s a violation of the Terms of Service to maintain two personal profiles.” Actually, Facebook now allows and encourages a separate “journalist” page (here are my personal and professional Facebook pages).
I’m glad AP is discussing important social media issues. I hope feedback on these guidelines result in a writethru soon with stronger advice.