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Harris Bitch Slaps @FakeJimVandeHei, Squashes @PoliticoMouse

According to an email obtained by FishbowlDC, anonymous spoof handles @FakeJimVandeHei and @politicomouse may be signing off of Twitter very soon.  That is, if they decide to listen to John Harris, head of Politico‘s Twitter gestapo and Captain of the rag’s Negative-Fun Committee.

In the memo, Debbie Downer Harris admitted there have been “a few instances when [he] was semi-amused” by the anonymous tweets from his newsroom but explained that he never wants to experience the sweet sensation of semi-amusement again. Ever.

“With full appreciation for the wit behind these tweets, whether about mice or VandeHei, I need to ask that they come to an end,” he said.

“At best, anonymous tweets create a kind of newsroom parlor game—’Who sent it?’ —that is entertaining at first but soon becomes an annoying distraction. (I’d say that describes my current mood.)  More troubling, the sense that colleagues are tweeting anonymously can create a climate of mistrust—’Can I really be candid around him?’ ‘She denied that she’s the author but I’m pretty sure she’s lying’—that is the exact opposite of how I want our newsroom to operate,” he explained.

Although Harris claims Politico brass isn’t currently “mad or on a warpath,” he warned:  “going forward, I don’t want this happening and would regard it as a serious lapse to learn that our shared newsroom standards—ones that apply to all 200 people who work at POLITICO–are not being respected.”

Good times.

Full memo after the jump.

Folks,

I have been slow to apprehend the significance of Twitter—I was once quoted predicting that we would look back on the phenomenon and ask “What was that about?” in the same way we look back in wonder at long sideburns and double-knit suits during the 1970s.

I have (mostly) come around and now recognize that it can be an effective platform for journalists to reach our audience and, in any event, it is going to be around for a while.

But this means we have to be using Twitter the way journalists use other platforms—with transparency and a willingness to stand publicly by our words.

This is a serious principle that comes up in a frivolous context…Like other people, I have been kind of semi-amused and in a couple instances genuinely amused by some of the tweets coming, or apparently coming, from the POLITICO newsroom with anonymous handles….

With full appreciation for the wit behind these tweets, whether about mice or VandeHei, I need to ask that they come to an end.

POLITICO journalists are encouraged to use Twitter as another platform to build an audience for our journalism. We have guidelines crafted by Hemal Jhaveri about how to do this most effectively. But we do so with real names attached, and a clear expectation that we’ll be accountable for what we write.

Even in fun, I don’t want people using fake handles to engage in pranks or share chatter.

At best, anonymous tweets create a kind of newsroom parlor game—“Who sent it?”—that is entertaining at first but soon becomes an annoying distraction. (I’d say that describes my current mood.)

More troubling, the sense that colleagues are tweeting anonymously can create a climate of mistrust—“Can I really be candid around him?” “She denied that she’s the author but I’m pretty sure she’s lying”—that is the exact opposite of how I want our newsroom to operate.

By all means, the people who are comfortable with Twittter should use it….to promote stories, to increase transparency, to have some fun….within the boundaries of good judgment and our responsibilities to the publication…But do not conceal your identity.

The key issue here is sound journalism. Just as we don’t publish anonymous articles on the site, or misrepresent ourselves during the course of reporting, we should treat Twitter as a journalistic platform and keep our standards intact.

So, to be clear: No one is mad or on the war path to find out who has been tweeting anonymously in the past. But, going forward, I don’t want this happening and would regard it as a serious lapse to learn that our shared newsroom standards—ones that apply to all 200 people who work at POLITICO–are not being respected.

Thanks very much.

Harris

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