E.W. Scripps Clarifies Social Media Policies

The E.W. Scripps Co., owner of 10 broadcast TV stations and daily and community newspapers in 14 markets, updated its policies on the use of social media by editorial staffers.

The E.W. Scripps Co., owner of 10 broadcast TV stations and daily and community newspapers in 14 markets, updated its policies on the use of social media by editorial staffers.

A sizable chunk of the document is devoted to how to handle and juggle personal and professional accounts, and Scripps also stresses professionalism, common sense, interactivity, engaging readers in conversation, and adding value to content.

The entire document is available via Poynter, but some highlights follow:

• The primary purpose of a personal account is for employees to connect with friends or others with similar interests that aren’t work related. A personal account should focus on your personal life. Break news on your professional account. Scripps content (videos or text) created for work purposes, other than proprietary, confidential nonpublic financial information, may be posted on a personal account before it is published or broadcast only with permission of a supervisor.

• Although nothing in this policy prohibits or interferes with employees’ rights to communicate with work colleagues about terms and conditions of employment, professional accounts should not be used to comment inappropriately on the work of others or about Scripps.

• Be professional. The Internet has blurred the line between public and private, personal and professional. Just by identifying yourself as a Scripps employee, you are creating perceptions about your expertise, as well as about the company and its business units. In your use of social media, reinforce the idea that you are reasoned, professional, and knowledgeable. Post an appropriate photo of yourself. Use privacy tools to restrict your most private information.

• Be transparent. If you are blogging about your work, use your real name, identify the newspaper or TV station at which you work, and be clear about your role. If you have a vested interest in something you are discussing, be the first to point it out.

• Write what you know. Make sure you write and post about your areas of expertise. Stay away from speculation about the work or talents of others, including co-workers and competitors. You can be personally responsible for content on blogs. Remember that social media can go viral quickly. What you write can be distributed widely, is ultimately your responsibility, and lives on forever. Comply with copyright and trademark laws, e.g. don’t plagiarize or cut and paste from another site.

• Be interactive. Use platforms that give you the broad reach and optimal interactivity, such as Facebook Fan Pages.

• Pause before publishing. If you’re about to publish something that makes you even the slightest bit uncomfortable, don’t shrug it off and hit “send.” Take a minute. Figure out what’s bothering you and fix it. If you’re still unsure, you might want to discuss it with your manager or the legal department. Ultimately, the responsibility for what you publish is yours. Strive for accuracy, clarity, and transparency with the audience and sources; correct factual errors; assure diverse voices in your stories. Double-check and verify information gathered from social networks before you take the information into a print, on-air, or online story for the company.

• Make it a conversation. Be real and personable. As long as it doesn’t jeopardize the reporting/exclusivity of a story, consider sharing parts of the reporting process with your followers. Where does your reporting have you traveling? What meeting are you sitting in? Talk to your social media audience like you would talk to real people in professional situations. Avoid overly dull or “composed” language. Don’t be afraid to bring in your own personality. Try to avoid contentious conversations with readers. Take the high road in disagreements. The reader doesn’t have to remain calm, but you should. Don’t be baited into saying something you would regret or would reflect badly on you (or Scripps).