In a sign of changing times, a top editor at The Wall Street Journal this week issued a memo to staffers about the rules of professional conduct for using social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter.
The memo, which applies to the staffers’ official accounts through the newspaper, sets guidelines about appropriate behavior on the sites. It was sent by Deputy Managing Editor Alix Freedman.
Some of the rules include seeking editor approval before “friending” confidential sources, not disparaging the work of colleagues and not participating in “impolite” exchanges with critics.
Many newspapers, including The Cincinnati Enquirer, have urged employees to use social networking sites as a method to publicize their work and increase Internet traffic. But the effort has yielded mixed results with some papers having staffers who tweet innocuous, low value messages like morning greetings and exchanging recipes, while others have had early morning tweets sent by drunken employees.
Freedman's memo states, "Business and pleasure should not be mixed on services like Twitter. Common sense should prevail, but if you are in doubt about the appropriateness of a Tweet or posting, discuss it with your editor before sending."
Editor & Publisher has more about the Twittering trend in the news industry.
Here’s the memo sent to Wall Street Journal employees:
The use of social and business networking sites by reporters and editors of The Journal, Newswires and MarketWatch is becoming more commonplace. These ground rules should guide all news employees' actions online, whether on Dow Jones sites or in social-networking, e-mail, personal blogs, or other sites outside Dow Jones.
* Never misrepresent yourself using a false name when you're acting on behalf of your Dow Jones publication or service. When soliciting information from readers and interview subjects you must identify yourself as a reporter for The Journal, Newswires or MarketWatch and be tonally neutral in your questions.
* Base all comments posted in your role as a Dow Jones employee in the facts, drawing from and citing your reporting when appropriate. Sharing your personal opinions, as well as expressing partisan political views, whether on Dow Jones sites or on the larger Web, could open us to criticism that we have biases and could make a reporter ineligible to cover topics in the future for Dow Jones.
* Don't recruit friends or family to promote or defend your work.
* Consult your editor before "connecting" to or "friending" any reporting contacts who may need to be treated as confidential sources. Openly "friending" sources is akin to publicly publishing your Rolodex.
* Let our coverage speak for itself, and don't detail how an article was reported, written or edited.
* Don't discuss articles that haven't been published, meetings you've attended or plan to attend with staff or sources, or interviews that you've conducted.
* Don't disparage the work of colleagues or competitors or aggressively promote your coverage.
* Don't engage in any impolite dialogue with those who may challenge your work -- no matter how rude or provocative they may seem.
* 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.
* All postings on Dow Jones sites that may be controversial or that deal with sensitive subjects need to be cleared with your editor before posting.
* Business and pleasure should not be mixed on services like Twitter. Common sense should prevail, but if you are in doubt about the appropriateness of a Tweet or posting, discuss it with your editor before sending.
News employees shouldn't undertake freelance writing either for publications that compete substantially with any Dow Jones news properties, or on a topic of core interest to readers of our news properties. Any ideas or story topics generated while reporting for Dow Jones are the property of Dow Jones. Similarly, any articles reported for our publications but ultimately not published are also the property of Dow Jones. Before shopping any such ideas or articles to any other publications, news personnel must obtain the approval of the managing editor (ME), the deputy managing editor in charge of ethics (DME-Ethics) or their designated senior editor. Anyone writing a freelance piece who wishes to be identified by their Dow Jones affiliation must also get the consent of the ME, the DME-Ethics, or the appointed senior editor as is similarly provided for in the IAPE contract.
News personnel must receive permission from their editor before accepting a speaking engagement. No honorariums or payments to the speaker may be accepted. All associated travel and lodging costs must be paid for by The Journal, Newswires or MarketWatch.
Television and Radio Appearances
We encourage television and radio appearances by news personnel of The Journal, Newswires and MarketWatch. However, supervisors still need to approve appearances by individual reporters and editors, and will do so based upon a number of factors, including:
* Whether the person is sufficiently experienced and knowledgeable about the anticipated subjects to reflect creditably on Dow Jones;
* Whether the person will be called on to pose questions and report information, or whether the program format calls for the person to interpret news or express opinion; and
* Whether the environment of the program - its format, the other participants - is of a sort likely to reflect creditably on Dow Jones.
When in doubt, please consult with the DME-Ethics or the appointed senior editor and the Corporate Communication representative for your publication.
Appearances on the two business networks, Fox Business Network and CNBC, may be restricted by certain contractual agreements. Anyone approached about appearances on CNBC should check with the News Editor for television (Richard Taliaferro) or the Deputy Managing Editor responsible for television (Alan Murray). Anyone approached about appearances on Fox Business Network should check with Shawn Bender or Alan Murray.
The motion picture rights to articles written by news staffers belong to Dow Jones. The company is prepared to entertain offers for those rights from producers or others. News employees may do paid work on motion pictures, provided that work meets the general guidelines for outside activities listed above. Dow Jones has an agent who handles movie negotiations. Anyone who receives an inquiry should direct the contact to the director of books and special projects (Rose Ellen D'Angelo).
To avoid any appearance of a conflict of interest with our news coverage, The Journal, Newswires and MarketWatch should generally enter journalism contests only if a majority of the judges in the contest are journalists or academics in journalism positions. Staff members should not enter these contests on their own without prior approval from senior editors.
When awards are offered to staff members without The Journal, Newswires or MarketWatch having formally entered the competitions, staffers should determine whether the judging passes the peer test and then get clearance from the DME-Ethics before accepting the awards or accepting any travel or other expenses involved in the award.
News personnel who are asked to judge a contest should get the permission of the DME-Ethics before agreeing to judge. If travel is required, the sponsoring organization may pick up those costs, subject to the approval of the DME-Ethics.