Late Friday afternoon, Washington Post Senior Editor Milton Coleman sent a memo to the staff with a social media policy–effectively immediately–aimed at staffers’ use of “individual accounts on online social networks, when used for reporting and for personal use.”
The new policy was translated externally by WaPo ombudsman Andy Alexander on his blog, along with a worst-case illustration: the decision by Managing Editor Raju Narisetti, responsible for features and the web, to shut down what appears to have been a small Twitter account intended for a private audience of friends and associates (as private as something that goes to 90-ish people can be) after some of his comments were called into question. Most of the online conversation that ensued was among people who had not yet seen the guidelines, which the paper, in a major transparency failure, didn’t make public.
Some of the guidelines are important ethical points about identification and transparency that I and others have encouraged since journalists started using the internet; some go to the kind of extreme that led newsrooms to exclude outbound links. More…