The New York Times released new social media guidelines to make sure its journalists aren’t “perceived as biased” and their posts hurt “the credibility of the entire newsroom.” That includes comments about politics and Donald Trump, and tweets responding to critical readers.
Ultimately, the new guidelines boil down to don’t get too opinionated and don’t make it possible for critics to find you — and by proxy, the Times — biased. Throughout the guidelines, the Times quotes some of the Times journalists who worked on the updates, including Maggie Haberman who posed a three-point test for tweets:
“Before you post, ask yourself: Is this something that needs to be said, is it something that needs to be said by you, and is it something that needs to be said by you right now? If you answer no to answer to any of the three, it’s best not to rush ahead.”
The updated guidelines are expansive, and apply to “everyone in every department of the newsroom.” Even if a Times reporter doesn’t cover politics, they can’t tweet opinions about Trump, the guidelines explain. “Journalists must not express partisan opinions, promote political views, endorse candidates, make offensive comments,” the guidelines state.
Times spokesperson Danielle Rhoades Ha told iMediaEthics, “These guidelines have been in the works for months. We thought it was time to offer more guidance for the newsroom and involve a number of voices from our newsroom to help shape them.”
Further, the guidelines apply to any social media platform, from Snapchat to Facebook. Times journalists are advised to be respectful even when someone is upset with readers. Specifically, the Times recommends journalists don’t tell critics they didn’t “carefully read” the story. The Times also advises against making “customer service complaints” because their “status” with the Times could affect the response. Any social media threats should be reported to bosses.
Errors should be corrected on social media, and deleted news tweets should be transparently flagged in tweets. If tweeting other news outlets’ work, the Times recommends including “a range of news, opinions or satire” to avoid being perceived as biased. Journalist area lso advised to “exercise caution when sharing scoops or provocative stories form other organizations” so readers don’t think the Times is also reporting.