Journalists Get Arrested During Occupy Wall Street, Tweet About It, Then Get Scolded By The AP

Just two weeks after laying down the law when it comes to retweets, the Associated Press is cracking down on reporters for turning to Twitter to… well, tweet about their own arrests at Occupy Wall Street in Manhattan.

New York Magazine reports that the AP reprimanded its employees on Wednesday for breaking the “Twitter rules” that the organization had laid out.

Apparently, some of the staff had been taken into custody while covering the Occupy Wall Street Protests in Zuccotti Park, Manhattan on Wednesday afternoon, and had taken to their personal Twitter accounts to share the news.

The AP sent out an email in response to these tweets, stating, in part:

“In relation to AP staff being taken into custody at the Occupy Wall Street story, we’ve had a breakdown in staff sticking to policies around social media and everyone needs to get with their folks now to tell them to knock it off. We have had staff tweet – BEFORE THE MATERIAL WAS ON THE WIRE – that staff were arrested.”

Ouch, the caps lock sounds pretty serious.

This email follows the AP’s new social media guidelines, which single Twitter out and provide a strict set of rules for tweeting. The rule that caused the Twitter-sphere to erupt with, more often than not, ridicule, requires journalists to distance themselves from a retweet by indicating that they are not endorsing the statement, merely passing it along.

It’s got to be tough for the AP’s supporters to keep making excuses for the organization’s archaic take on social media. Asking that their reporters not tweet about their own arrest at such a major event completely misses the mark about the power of Twitter.

Of course, breaking other news on Twitter, unrelated to themselves, might be more of a problem. But when they were arrested, the journalists immediately took on the dual role of professional journalist and citizen reporter. They felt they had to report what was happening to them, share it with the world. And Twitter is the perfect medium to do so.

The Washington Post has a great write-up of the “do not tweet” email writer’s response to the dust-up following his comments. And to be fair he does make some good points about having to maintain a relationship with a variety of entities, which can be disrupted if journalists take to tweeting the wrong things.

Still, it sounds like the brass at the AP doesn’t quite get Twitter. It’s not a newswire service. It’s much more than that. And until they realize this, they are going to continue to lose credibility as an organization that’s on the forefront of journalism – which now, necessarily, includes social media.

(Image: arindambanerjee via Shutterstock