Employees of NPR may no longer get to claim that retweets on Twitter are not endorsements, if a recent Standards & Practices memo is any indication.
As Romenesko first reported, NPR's S&P supervising senior editor Mark Memmott issued a reminder on Tuesday afternoon of the company social media policies, including (perhaps most controversially) a statement that retweets are, by default, endorsements, no matter what just about every media professional's Twitter bio says.
"Tweet and retweet as if what you’re saying or passing along is information that you would put on the air or in a ‘traditional’ NPR.org news story," Memmott quotes from the company's ethics handbook. "If it needs context, attribution, clarification or ‘knocking down,’ provide it.”
The memo itself is a response to a tweet on the organization's @npr_ed account, reportedly sent by lead education blogger Anya Kamenetz last week.
I reach out to diverse sources on deadline. Only the white guys get back to me :(— NPR's Education Team (@npr_ed) July 2, 2014
Kamenetz took responsibility in a follow-up tweet, but also claimed that her error did not and should not reflect on her employer. Memmott's memo pretty strongly contradicts that idea.
"Though the words may be on 'personal' Twitter or Facebook accounts, what we say can reflect on NPR and raise questions about our ability to be objective," he warned. (Of course, Kamenetz's tweet was not on a personal account, but we digress.)
This memo is only the latest in a year of scrutiny for Twitter culture. Adrienne LaFrance and Robinson Meyer at The Atlantic declared Twitter a dying beast back in April, while an argument about curating tweets in a BuzzFeed post led to a debate about whether or not Twitter is public.
Read the full memo, via Romenesko, below.
From: Mark Memmott
Sent: Tuesday, July 08, 2014 2:24 PM
To: News-All Staff
Subject: Reminder: There Is No Privacy On The Web, And ‘Personal’ Pages Are Not Safe Zones
“If you wouldn’t say it on the air, don’t say it on the Web.”
That’s been the basic guidance for quite a few years.
In reality, Twitter and other social media sites allow us to show more of our personalities than we might on the air or in a blog post.
BUT, though the words may be on “personal” Twitter or Facebook accounts, what we say can reflect on NPR and raise questions about our ability to be objective.
Matt Thompson offers a test. Before posting something about your work or a news event or an issue, even if you’re putting it on what you think of as a personal page, ask this question: “Is it helping my journalism, or is it hurting my journalism?”
Here’s a bit more from the Ethics Handbook:
“We acknowledge that nothing on the Web is truly private. Even on purely recreational or cultural sites and even if what we’re doing is personal and not identified as coming from someone at NPR, we understand that what we say and do could still reflect on NPR. So we do nothing that could undermine our credibility with the public, damage NPR’s standing as an impartial source of news, or otherwise jeopardize NPR’s reputation. In other words, we don’t behave any differently than we would in any public setting or on an NPR broadcast.”
Also, despite what many say, retweets should be viewed AS endorsements. Again, from the handbook:
“Tweet and retweet as if what you’re saying or passing along is information that you would put on the air or in a ‘traditional’ NPR.org news story. If it needs context, attribution, clarification or ‘knocking down,’ provide it.”