When Reuters released its new social media policy last week, their competition had to be salivating. The wire service appears to be digging its own grave by stipulating in no uncertain terms that its reporters are not to use social media to break news. All news is to be broken on the Reuters wire, no exceptions.
The idea of spurning social media for breaking news in order to protect your wire service would be a little like an early 90s telephone service provider spurning the notion of developing an Internet service, instead allowing competitors to use its lines to serve up dial-up service to its customers.
Truth is, Twitter is the perfect medium for breaking news. I think of it as the latest incarnation of the “this just in!” radio bulletin. As a tool, it is immediate, mobile, searchable by keyword and location, you can easily see who has passed on your news (via RTs), link traffic is easily tracked and, best of all, it has your brand attached so you can get credit for the scoop.
There is absolutely nothing more satisfying to this newshound than a series of re-tweets on my item from readers – and even better when it includes a begrudging re-tweet from my competitors.
If a news outlets that uses the Reuters wire is the first to post an item to a social media, it will look as if they broke that news. Their link to the same Reuters content will be the one passed around from retweet to retweet. One would think they might want to get their name on it first – but guess not.
I see this play out every day on my Tweetdeck, as the local TV stations battle to tweet out the latest kooky AP news item from 200 miles away first. I always can’t help but think, “Gee, why isn’t the AP trying to get this into this market’s Twittersphere before local news outlets even get the chance?”
In the end, it won’t matter if they broke the news on the wires first. Most readers don’t read the wires, they read either their preferred media site or social media to get their news. As more and more news organizations take advantage of using Twitter to break news (or in the case of the BBC, mandating it), news providers who are late to the party on every story will eventually render themselves pretty useless as breaking news resources.
It’s downright shameful that an industry leader in breaking news (including some of the biggest breaking news events of the 20th century), would just let that go in favor of protecting a corner of the market that doesn’t benefit its readers or its reporters.
I have to say, the rest of the policy is rather helpful. It largely focuses on explaining how journalists can manage professional and personal brands on Twitter, including guidelines for making corrections in the social media sphere and avoiding accusations of bias with a thorough look at one’s social media profiles. All good info to know.