(UPDATE AT BOTTOM)
Managers at The Cincinnati Enquirer may be encouraging its staff to use Internet social networking sites to lure more readers, but at least one editor at a Gannett sister newspaper has had enough of Twitter and Facebook.
The Gannett Blog, a popular Web site operated by ex-Gannett employee Jim Hopkins that covers the media company, has posted a memo reportedly written by Florida Today Executive Editor Bob Stover that warns his employees not to use social networking sites for personal purposes while at work.
Here’s the memo, sent yesterday:
It has come to my attention that some staff members are spending a lot of time on Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites during work hours. Also, some staff members apparently are spending work time on Fantasy baseball research and other personal recreation activities.
This is not appropriate. It is not part of the job. Occasionally it will be necessary for staff members to visit these sites for work purposes, but please reserve social networking and recreational pursuits for your private time.
In contrast, The Enquirer’s new “social media strategy,” part of the local paper’s efforts to reinvent itself for the Digital Age, encourages staffers to use Twitter for updates, and to establish a presence on Facebook to help “brand” some reporters and increase their exposure.
“You are responsible for promoting your own brand,” the strategy states. “You are more than just a reporter for The Enquirer, you are a hub of information and a local expert in your field — now act like it.”
Stover’s memo has elicited a firestorm of angry comments from readers, presumably Gannett employees, who call him out of touch. They note that by posting links to articles and other material on the social networking sites, it increases usage of the newspaper’s Web site.
A person who commented anonymously at 8:46 p.m. Tuesday defended the use of Twitter, Facebook and other sites.
“What a complete idiot! This editor’s ancestors must have decried the use of the telephone. ‘Hang up that contraption and wait for the ticker to click away, Sonny Boy. This talking machine'll never amount to anything.’ That's six months less for that paper to publish.
The person added, “At our site, the reporters who are clued into social media are scooping the hell out of the competition.”
Whether readers look to Twitter for breaking news is another matter.
Regardless, not everyone is convinced of the usefulness of such sites.
One person, who posted a comment anonymously at 8:17 a.m. today, wrote, “We have several on staff who do nothing but twitter and tweet and blurp and yammer all the live-long-day. and call themselves journalists. they have managed to somehow convince the clueless that it is shiny = it is new = it is cool = it matters. she has the same reaction to mylar. don't send balloons.
“…if only they had been able to tweet from the titanic.”
UPDATE: Count "Doonesbury" creator Garry Trudeau among Twitter's detractors. In an interview with the Media Bistro Web site, Trudeau criticized reporters who solicit interview questions using Twitter.
"Please. You're supposed to be professionals," Trudeau said.
"Do pilots and surgeons ask for suggestions? If you can't think of a
few good questions, you and your producer are in the wrong business.
It's not about getting fresh, out-of-the-bubble perspectives, as they
would argue: most questions sent in are obvious or inane. It's really
about flattering the followers, populist pandering."