NPR to Employees: ‘Retweets Actually Are Endorsements, So Quit It!’

does-not-equalSomething that has plagued reporters of any ilk for years is the dreaded retweet button.

Although they work for a particular network (local or national), they have personal accounts … and opinions. Thanks to becoming the personification of the TV network, the disclaimer “Retweets are not endorsements” appears throughout Twitter bios everywhere.

But does that even matter? Are retweets endorsements or just sharing opinion?

Twitter has created a subculture and an unspoken set of rules that reflects retweets as implied endorsements. You share with your followers and that means it becomes your opinion. To be retweeted means someone else likes your tweet because you shared good information. And that they agree with it, most of the time.

So, NPR has stepped in and said what most of us already think…sorta.

If you ask the C-suites at NPR, this was the tweet heard ’round the world.

Anya Kamenetz, NPR’s education team lead blogger, tweeted this on the NPR Education handle the other day. Funny. Possibly true. However, opinion that caused NPR a fact of embarrassment. And then, the network’s social media policy was quickly amended.

“I take personal responsibility,” tweeted Kamenetz after her post received reactions of all temperaments. She, nor NPR, deleted the tweet and Kamenetz offered to continue the conversation. “I don’t think it should reflect on my employer.”

Yeah, that’s the thing. Whether we like it or not, believe it or not, those tweets do reflect the network because that’s how America thinks. Here’s the AP Stylebook’s stance on things: A retweet with no comment of your own can easily be seen as a sign of approval of what you’re relaying.

And so, the NPR Standards & Practices Supervising Editor Mark Memmott put out a memo to squash any blurred lines about the issue (thanks to the great Romensko). Does this solve it for you?

From: Mark Memmott
Sent: Tuesday, July 08, 2014 2:24 PM
To: News-All Staff
Subject: Reminder: There Is No Privacy On The Web, And ‘Personal’ Pages Are Not Safe Zones

“If you wouldn’t say it on the air, don’t say it on the Web.”

That’s been the basic guidance for quite a few years.

In reality, Twitter and other social media sites allow us to show more of our personalities than we might on the air or in a blog post.

BUT, though the words may be on “personal” Twitter or Facebook accounts, what we say can reflect on NPR and raise questions about our ability to be objective.

Matt Thompson offers a test. Before posting something about your work or a news event or an issue, even if you’re putting it on what you think of as a personal page, ask this question: “Is it helping my journalism, or is it hurting my journalism?”

Here’s a bit more from the Ethics Handbook:

“We acknowledge that nothing on the Web is truly private. Even on purely recreational or cultural sites and even if what we’re doing is personal and not identified as coming from someone at NPR, we understand that what we say and do could still reflect on NPR. So we do nothing that could undermine our credibility with the public, damage NPR’s standing as an impartial source of news, or otherwise jeopardize NPR’s reputation. In other words, we don’t behave any differently than we would in any public setting or on an NPR broadcast.”

Also, despite what many say, retweets should be viewed AS endorsements. Again, from the handbook:

“Tweet and retweet as if what you’re saying or passing along is information that you would put on the air or in a ‘traditional’ news story. If it needs context, attribution, clarification or ‘knocking down,’ provide it.”