Thursday, July 22, 2010

How should I view the way Leicester Mercury journalists use social media sites?

The Leicester Mercury - in common with all good regional papers - commits itself to work within the guidelines set by the Press Complaints Commission. Our staff know this and we have written a requirement to abide by the code into any new contracts for some years now.

However, it's not quite clear how the PCC code relates to our online work and particularly to the use of social media sites by our journalists. Up until now, I have talked to individual reporters about their usage, but thought it might be useful to put my thoughts down in writing and ask the journalists what they thought.

I also thought it would be good to hear what other people think so here's what I sent to our staff:
This is how I view the way journalists at the Leicester Mercury use Twitter and other social media sites, including blogs.

I separate it into two categories:

1 Personal usage: where a member of staff uses any social media site in a personal capacity (ie where they do not mention the Leicester Mercury in their profile nor mention work in anything other than a passing reference) I do not believe that I have a part to play in overseeing that content. In the same way that I would expect them not to bring the company into disrepute in their personal lives, I would expect them to take that into consideration when writing in a personal capacity.

2 Professional usage: I believe that any use of social media sites (including Twitter) in a professional capacity (ie where the member of staff links their usage directly to their job) should be treated in the same way as a column of the newspaper. As a columnist, the journalist gets far more freedom and is able to express an opinion. However, as a columnist their work is subject to my editing. I reserve the right to edit their posts. In practice, I never see their posts until after they have been published, but staff know that I am reviewing them and, therefore, I believe, they take this into consideration before publication. I have not had to intervene in any posts so far. I regularly read all staff blogs and have a ‘list’ of Mercury journalists set up on Twitter and I review their posts every day.

It follows from this that I would be happy for the professional usage to fall within the PCC’s remit.
So, what do you think?