Journalists expressed concerns about potential fallout from the New York Times' unveiling of its new social media policy for its employees on Friday, with some alarmed that the strict new rules could be "weaponized" against Times journalists.
Executive editor Dean Baquet released the new guidelines citing "potential risks" social media poses for the newspaper, should journalists' posts on Twitter, Facebook, and other platforms be perceived as biased.
While many reporters make clear on their Twitter biographies that their posts do not denote endorsements of viewpoints or represent the Times itself, the paper issued a new guideline stating that "Our journalists should be especially mindful of appearing to take sides on issues that the Times is seeking to cover objectively."
The new guidelines apply "everyone in every department of the newsroom, including those not involved in coverage of government and politics," and to journalists' accounts across social media, including ones for personal use.
While you may think that your Facebook page, Twitter feed, Instagram, Snapchat or other social media accounts are private zones, separate from your role at The Times, in fact everything we post or “like” online is to some degree public. And everything we do in public is likely to be associated with The Times...
Avoid joining private and “secret” groups on Facebook and other platforms that may have a partisan orientation. You should also refrain from registering for partisan events on social media.
Journalists from the Los Angeles Times and the Washington Post brought up concerns that the new rules could be used against Times employees by those eager to attack the news media in the current anti-press environment, promoted by the White House. In recent weeks the Trump administration suggested Jemele Hill should be fired from her job as a sports anchor at ESPN, after she attacked the president's ties to white supremacists.
My thought: firmer policies, instituted to monitor employees, will get triggered by adversaries of their journalism. https://t.co/fghvSlnhMw— Matt Pearce (@mattdpearce) October 13, 2017
hard for me not to see this as NYT handing powerful tool to bad faith adversaries who will weaponize guidelines to harass/silence reporters— Wesley Lowery (@WesleyLowery) October 13, 2017
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Hamilton Nolan of Splinter News suggested the monitoring of journalists' private use of social media was an overstep by the Times.
The NYT's union should fight these rules which mandate policing parts of journalists' private lives. https://t.co/Vn9k0kFMxN— Hamilton Nolan (@hamiltonnolan) October 13, 2017
Nick Baumann of the Huffington Post argued that the newspaper should maintain transparency in its engagement with the public—including on social media.
NYT's new social media rules, like many of its policies, start from the idea that it's important to hide reporters' true views from readers.— Nick Baumann (@NickBaumann) October 13, 2017
Meawhile, others suggested the Times's new rules are an attempt to appease more conservative readers.
The NYTimes is trying to reclaim a neutrality in American politics that the public will not grant them, and their subscribers do not want.— Ed Lyons (@mysteriousrook) October 13, 2017
This is just an attempt to appease the right.— Brad Ripka (@bradripka) October 13, 2017
It’s more of the “both sides” journalism that caused their election coverage to be so poor.