ASNE Releases Detailed Report on Newspapers’ Social Media Policies, Best Practices

The American Society of Newspaper Editors released a new report, 10 Best Practices for Social Media, which examined the social media policies of 19 news organizations — large and small, local, national, and international — to come up with a list of best practices.

The 10 key takeaways from ASNE:

1: Traditional ethics rules still apply online.

2: Assume everything you write online will become public.

3: Use social media to engage with readers, but professionally.

4: Break news on your website, not on Twitter.

5: Beware of perceptions.

6: Independently authenticate anything found on a social networking site.

7: Always identify yourself as a journalist.

8: Social networks are tools, not toys.

9: Be transparent and admit when you’re wrong online.

10: Keep internal deliberations confidential.

The entire report makes for fascinating reading, but SocialTimes selected one interesting component from each of the guideline lists put out by the 18 organizations and shared by ASNE:

Bloomberg: Social media is an excellent means of promoting our work. As such, there should be a preference for linking to Bloomberg.com stories. However, it’s good Web and social media etiquette to give credit in the form of a link to work that is interesting or valuable, regardless of the source.

The Denver Post: If you do publish something on a social media service that is incorrect, and realize it instantly, delete the Tweet or Facebook post. Issue a correction Tweet or Facebook post thereafter. Do not repeat the error. If you realize it much later, also issue a correction. Don’t try to hide the error by deleting the original message and then reissuing the news. Many Twitter clients, for example, download Tweets and store them on users’ computers or hand-held devices, so they won’t be deleted from someone’s stream even if you delete the Tweet. The same applies for Facebook.

NPR: While we strongly encourage linking to NPR.org, you may not repost NPR copyrighted material to social networks without prior permission. For example, it is OK to link from your blog or Facebook profile to a story of yours on the NPR site, but you should not copy the full text or audio onto a personal site or Web page. You may accomplish this through the NPR API or widgets that NPR provides to the public under the same terms of use as apply to anyone else.

Orlando Sentinel: Be aware of perceptions. “Friending” or “following” people is fine. But if you “friend” a source or join a group on one side of a debate, you should do so with those on the other side, as well. Understand that users or sources may view your participation in a group as your acceptance of its views; be clear that you’re looking for story ideas or collecting information.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Because the social media and digital landscape is changing rapidly, it is impossible to anticipate the challenges, questions, and issues that could be posed by new tools that emerge in the future. When you face such challenges or questions, it’s always best to discuss them with your supervisor or senior newsroom leaders or, when appropriate, your colleagues before making a decision on how to handle the situation.

The Roanoke Times/roanoke.com: Before using photos copied or downloaded from social networking sites, be careful to verify that the photos are what you think they are. All other standards for photographs used in our publications naturally apply.

The Wall Street Journal, Dow Jones Newswires, and MarketWatch: Avoid giving highly tailored, specific advice to any individual on Dow Jones sites. Phrases such as, “Travel agents are saying the best deals are X and Y,” are acceptable while counseling a reader. “You should choose X,” is not. Giving generalized advice is the best approach.

SourceMedia Group (Cedar Rapids, Iowa): The company understands that associates engage in online social media activities at work for legitimate purposes, and that these activities may be helpful for company affairs and add to industry conversation. However, the company encourages all associates to exercise sound judgment and common sense to prevent online social media sites from becoming a distraction at work.

Rockford Register Star (Ill.): We will not repost or publish visual images or video posted on social media sites without securing permission to use the image, up to and including securing the copyright. This applies to all images, including, but not limited, to photographs, videos, podcasts, graphics. and mug shots.

Los Angeles Times: Your professional life and your personal life are intertwined in the online world, just as they are offline. 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 York Times: Bloggers may write lively commentary on their preferences in food, music, sports, or other avocations, but as journalists, they must avoid taking stands on divisive public issues. A staff member’s Web page that was outspoken on the abortion issue would violate our policy in exactly the same way as participation in a march or rally on the subject. A blog that takes a political stand is as far out of bounds as a letter to the editor supporting or opposing a candidate. The definition of a divisive public issue will vary from one community to another; in case of doubt, staff members should consult local newsroom management.

Guardian (U.K.): Think before you post. One of the secrets to social media’s success is how easy it has become to participate. But that also makes it easy to respond or repeat before you have thought through the consequences. Whether we think it is fair or not, other media will use your social media output as your news organization’s comment on topical stories. And you will play into the hands of your critics unless you take care: Resist the temptation to respond in anger to those you regard as mistaken or ill-tempered.

Reuters: Think about how you would feel if your content was cited on the front page of a leading newspaper or website or blog as your news organization’s comment on an issue.

The Washington Post: What you do on social networks should be presumed to be publicly available to anyone, even if you have created a private account. It is possible to use privacy controls online to limit access to sensitive information. But such controls are only a deterrent, not an absolute insulator. Reality is simple: If you don’t want something to be found online, don’t put it there.

Charlotte Observer: Newsroom employees shall not display politically oriented materials, including bumper stickers on their automobiles or political yard signs on their property. They shall not make political declarations of any sort on their personal Web pages, or on their pages on social networking sites such as Facebook or Myspace.

The Journal Gazette (Fort Wayne, Ind.): Staff members are welcome to have personal pages on social networking sites such as Myspace or Facebook, and may say on those pages how they are employed. But they should remember that those sites are public sites and can be seen by more than their circle of friends. They should not post on such pages information about JG stories or sources, nor should they comment on JG matters.

The Manhattan Mercury (Kan.): The use of “false identities” by employees online is not allowed on company websites and is only likely to exacerbate problems with inappropriate conduct.

The News & Record (Greensboro, N.C.): Editor John Robinson emailed: “We have a code of ethics and professionalism that covers our behavior, period. That said. I’ve told my staff that my social media policy is this: Don’t be stupid. It seems to work.”

Freedom Communications: We recognize that associates might work long hours and occasionally may desire to use social media for personal activities at work or by means of the company’s computers, networks, and other IT resources and communications systems. The company authorizes such occasional use so long as it does not involve unprofessional or inappropriate content and does not interfere with your employment responsibilities or productivity. Circulating or posting commercial, personal, religious, or political solicitations, or promotion of outside organizations unrelated to the company’s business, are also prohibited.

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