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There’s No One-Size-Fits-All Social Media Policy In Journalism

Last week news broke about the new Twitter / social media policy that is being used by Sky News in the United Kingdom.

Usually when you hear the words “news” and “social media policy”, the instinct is to cringe and see how bad the damage is. This is no different.

In some ways the Sky News social media policy is a great poster child for how not to write social media guidelines for journalists.

Here’s a bit from The Guardian’s report:

The email says that the guidelines have been introduced “to ensure that our journalism is joined up across platforms, there is sufficient editorial control of stories reported by Sky News journalists and that the news desks remain the central hub for information going out on all our stories”.

That’s well and good, but ultimately wrong-headed. The news desks are becoming less of a “central hub” for information. This is an effort to claw back some authority, but it’s unlikely to work.

The sports beat is nothing like the schools beat, which is nothing like the government beat. When translated onto a platform like Twitter, the value of a tweet shifts like the stock market.

We’ve seen that Tweets about sports news translate well on Twitter. Same can be said for government. Tweeting the details from a Board of Education meeting, however, would be less effective and have less of an impact. Same can be said for someone who covers agriculture, city planning, and so on.

Social media policies need to be crafted on a per-beat-basis, not a whole-newsroom basis. The people in the news desks need to be trained on how to make the most efficient use of tools like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and more.

Sky News’s policy is reactionary and based in a fear of the continued erosion of the prevailing hierarchy of news gathering and reporting. It’s counterintuitive and designed to fail, because people will violate the policy, often without even realizing it.

Sky News will spend time and resources enforcing these rules, when that time and resources could be allocated toward actual news gathering and reporting.

Photo credit: Hanz Gerwitz/Flickr

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