Here you go! A REAL “Twitter Guidelines For Journalists” article!

“Experts” are ragging on about the “right way” journalists are supposed to use twitter.

They’re half-right.

What?

First of all, if you are a journalist, before you commence tweeting, you must decide if your twitter (and/or facebook) account will be yours, or if it will belong to the media outlet you represent.

Social media has taken a place as a component of newsgathering and delivery.

For Journalists, there are two types of twitter accounts.

(1) Human.

(2) Corporate. (Referred to as ‘Institutional’ if such account is passed from a departing reporter to a new hire.  If you get one of these, keep it seperate from your personal account.)

(Before you elect to go ‘corporate’ do not relinquish control of your account to your employer. Instead, ask nicely if you can manage your own account, because should you ever leave their employ, for whatever reaosn, you want to take that account and whatever following you have along with you.  If that’s not an option, you may need to have TWO seperate accounts.)

What about followers (and ‘friends’) – my own rule: I follow others who practice my craft as well as a few friends, celebrities and news orgs. I cap those I follow at around 300, more than enough for my purposes. I check the accounts every few months and unfollow any person or organization that stops showing recent activity on their twitter feed. So you will see the umber of those I follow shrink and swell between 295-303, because new and interesting accounts come to my attention from time to time. The mix I have right now is excellent (for me!).

Some employers have a defined ‘social media policy’ that you must adhere to, and they will likely let you control your own twitter if you agree. That’s NOT a bad thing, because the account will stay with you if/when you change jobs.
Should you follow ‘Associated Press’ or some other style? That’s up to you. I see no problem with taking advantage of internet-style abbreviations to say what you want to within the 140 character limit. Stick to those your followers and colleagues will recognize.

Should you tweet personal opinions or comments? Why not? You’re human. Even some corporate tweeters inject their own two cents every now and then. Just know what is acceptable.

Give followers room to do an old-school RT or add a comment with an MT. In other words, instead of using all 140 characters, try to say it in 100 or less, which allows room for the MT with your twittername and a short comment from the next guy or gal.

MT “Modified Tweet” should be used when you edit, shorten or change a tweet that originated on somebody else’s account. Internet manners!

# Hashtags – use in moderation, but by all means use them whenever they fit into the flow of your tweet.

Spell somthing rwong? Keyboard mistakes are facts of digital life and it’s super-easy for the wrong letter to get in there when typed on a smartphone touchscreen. Don’t mistweet yourself! 🙂  If you see a boo-boo, delete the tweet and immediately resend the corrected copy! If there’s room send the word CORRECTION: along.

Reporters and Journalists, think of your twitter as a “micro-report” when typing!

Regardless of being human or corporate, strive to be correct. Check, verify and validate any original tweets. If you are re-tweeting, which for now is a regular part of twitter culture, the burden of verification rests on the first source, BUT if anything sounds too unlikely, don’t re-tweet. Unless the source you really and truly trust!

Reporters should NOT fear tweeting any details surrounding breaking news. Your time-stamped tweet can serve as the “scoop” for YOU and your organization! A lady videojournalist in my area tweeted something about a fire scene. I replied “where are you.” She ignored my tweet, likely fearing I was “after” her story. Nonsense! Another TV reporter picked up on it and he tweeted out the details. His channel got the credit for breaking the story. She lost a great opportunity to boost her career (and her twitter following!)

Some news organizations have a full-time social media editor. Others have designated webmasters or pr people to curate original content. As of January 2014 nearly 10 per cent of the average news organization’s web traffic comes from social media, while at the same time, 10 per cent of consumers of news in the U.S. get that news via twitter (and facebook). The expectation is that both numbers will continue to ascend, possibly to 12 per cent by year’s end.

Be mindful of your organization’s social media policy and ethical approach to news. I would never use any four letter words or derogatory slang in my original tweets. I send stuff out in a certain manner or fashion similar to the way I would engage folks who stopped by the radio station, or those I speak with by telephone. Know the limits. Stay away from blatant racism, sexism or bias. Don’t smear anyone or violate his or her rights. Be accurate and offer honest criticism or critique and you won’t run afoul of anyone. Be polite if someone takes something the wrong way or out of context.

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