Even aside from the Washington Post’s social media policy itself, the method of its distribution and construction is cause for concern.
As Steve Buttry notes, the organization shouldn’t have started with a closed policy decree, it should have started with internal conversations with staff about social media. The senior editor has been working on the policy without input from the newsroom or digital staff since May – and only told them about it the same day it was released.
Was there any talk with tenured Twitterati about the benefits they have of using Twitter in sourcing and story development? Did anyone consult with the ombudsman about the possibilities of using social media to address reader complaints and questions? Did anyone in the WaPo newsroom ever even get training or guidance of any kind on this issue in the months preceding the policy’s release? It doesn’t seem like it.
At my paper, The Cincinnati Enquirer, we have been lucky enough to have several open staff conversations about social media ethics and legalities. Our lawyer even came in for a session on the legal implications of using the likes of Twitter and Facebook, which was a huge help for those of us who train staffers in using the technology (yeah, that’s right, we have training). Our editor is very open about his feelings on the technology (he’s in love with it) and encourages its use amongst reporters. We don’t have a policy, per se, but at least everyone talks about it.