The Associated Press has issued new social media guidelines that target their journalists’ tweeting.
Specifically, they’re asking that journalists refrain from including their opinions when they retweet.
“Retweets, like tweets, should not be written in a way that looks like you’re expressing a personal opinion on the issues of the day. A retweet with no comment of your own can easily be seen as a sign of approval of what you’re relaying.”
The AP goes on to say that, when retweeting a news piece that is opinion-based, journalists should use colons and quotations to show that the opinion is coming from the original tweeter. And, simply tweeting or including somewhere on their Twitter page that retweets do not constitute endorsements isn’t good enough.
As Poynter reports, the AP’s new guideline for retweeting received a lot of criticism from the Twitter-sphere, namely because the examples it included to illustrate attributing the opinion to the original source separated the “RT” from the @username of the tweeter, like this:
RT Jones campaign now denouncing smith on education: @jonescampaign smith’s policies would destroy our school
For an agency that has been in the media business for so long, this type of tweeting is a little tone-deaf. Although it’s clear that the AP is trying to create a clear and consistent rulebook for their journalists when using Twitter, by separating the RT from the source just to explain that the retweet is not the opinion of the journalist goes against the accepted syntax of Twitter.
Tweeting this way would be confusing, and actually doesn’t really make it any clearer that the opinion is not that of the journalist.
To be fair, the AP’s Standards Editor, Tom Kent, responded that keeping the RT connected to the original tweeter was OK, too.
However, the organization is clearly still struggling with dealing with the open and opinionated nature of social media when it comes to their members, who, in their opinion, must remain as objective and unbiased as possible.