E.W. Scripps Co. issues Social Media Policy

Romenesko Misc.

The publisher of the Commercial Appeal in Memphis, the Knoxville News Sentinel, and other newspapers (it owns TV stations, too) tells employees that “while the use of social media enhances the company’s commitment to providing a vast array of information to our local communities on a variety of platforms (including blogs, Facebook and Twitter), the use of the broad array of social media by Scripps employees requires special attention.”

If your personal account contains material that could reflect badly on Scripps, its business operations or your colleagues, or is contrary to Scripps policies, you may be asked to remove your affiliation with Scripps from the personal account or be otherwise disciplined, including termination. The possibility of disciplinary action is not intended to limit your use of social media, but clarify the company’s position regarding egregious behavior.

The entire E.W. Scripps Social Media Policy is after the jump.


The E. W. Scripps Company and its newspapers and television stations recognize the crucial role social media plays in providing local news and information to our readers, viewers and business partners. Our newspapers and television stations have embraced the Internet and social media sites as essential elements of our future.

We continue to embrace new technologies to distribute our content and market our advertisers, and we will continue defining the best practices for using these tools. While the use of social media enhances the company’s commitment to providing a vast array of information to our local communities on a variety of platforms (including blogs, Facebook and Twitter), the use of the broad array of social media by Scripps employees requires special attention.

This policy aims to help employees understand how the company’s business practices, guidelines and policies apply to social media. It applies if you’re a Scripps employee, whether you create content or provide support in another role. As technologies, products and practices evolve, so will this policy. Employees need to evaluate their social media efforts in conjunction with this policy and other important Scripps policies such as the Code of Conduct and the Anti-Harassment Policy.

Personal accounts:
• The primary purpose of a personal account is for employees to connect with friends or others with similar interests that aren’t work related.

• A personal account should focus on your personal life.

• Break news on your professional account. Scripps content (videos or text) created for work purposes, other than proprietary, confidential nonpublic financial information, may be posted on a personal account before it is published or broadcast only with permission of a supervisor.

• If you do post your work product on your personal social media account, please remember that Scripps owns the rights to that work product even though it is posted on your personal account.

• Even though it is a personal account, you are a representative of Scripps and should be aware of how your actions impact the brand and credibility of all of our business units.

• If your personal account contains material that could reflect badly on Scripps, its business operations or your colleagues, or is contrary to Scripps policies, you may be asked to remove your affiliation with Scripps from the personal account or be otherwise disciplined, including termination. The possibility of disciplinary action is not intended to limit your use of social media, but clarify the company’s position regarding egregious behavior.

• Your personal account is your property even if you leave Scripps.
• If your personal account contains the Scripps brand or that of any Scripps business unit, you must change the branding if you leave Scripps.

Professional accounts:

• A professional account is intended to promote and expand the company’s brand, products and activities.

• The account and any ongoing activity are subject to approval, monitoring, editing and modification by Scripps.

* Scripps must be the administrator and owner of all professional accounts.

• Your professional account is the company’s property and the name and contents remain company property if you leave Scripps. Scripps reserves the right to edit, monitor, promote or cancel a professional account.

• When using an outside source to create, modify, or manage a professional account, advanced written consent from your manager is required.

• Professional accounts have specific goals set by Scripps, which are assigned to the employee using the account.
• Professional accounts should reflect standards of good taste and good judgment. Employees who maintain professional accounts represent the Scripps brand. Discourse should be civil, fair, lawful, and reasonable.

• Content on a professional account must comply with Scripps policies. Any content that is not lawful or does not comply with Scripps policies will be removed and you may be otherwise disciplined, including termination.

• Although nothing in this policy prohibits or interferes with employees’ rights to communicate with work colleagues about terms and conditions of employment, professional accounts should not be used to comment inappropriately on the work of others or about Scripps.

• Do not disclose confidential or proprietary company information, business plans or similar information.

• Know the laws and regulations that may apply, including those regarding the host medium on which you are working.

• Understand the consequences of using someone else’s intellectual property (including photographs, texts, names and other copyrights or trademarks).

• If you are writing about a product that can be interpreted as an endorsement or if you use a testimonial, you must disclose any and all connections you have with the seller of that product or service. Likewise, if referring to the findings of research that was conducted at your request, disclose the connection.

• All journalistic standards apply. You posts remain online as archives. Clarify or correct mistakes as necessary.

Best Practices (for professional accounts)

Guard your reputation. First and foremost, remember that your social media activities reflect on your reputation and on the reputations of Scripps, its business units and its online presence. Everything you post could have a potential influence on your reputation and the company’s. As an employee of Scripps your social media activities, even at home or on your personal time, can affect your work life forever. Don’t do things in social media spaces to embarrass yourself (or Scripps).

Be professional. The Internet has blurred the line between public and private, personal and professional. Just by identifying yourself as a Scripps employee, you are creating perceptions about your expertise as well as about the company and its business units. In your use of social media reinforce the idea that you are reasoned, professional and knowledgeable. Post an appropriate photo of yourself. Use privacy tools to restrict your most private information.

Be transparent. If you are blogging about your work, use your real name, identify the newspaper or TV station at which you work and be clear about your role. If you have a vested interest in something you are discussing be the first to point it out.

Write what you know. Make sure you write and post about your areas of expertise. Stay away from speculation about the work or talents of others, including co-workers and competitors. You can be personally responsible for content on blogs. Remember that social media can go viral quickly. What you write can be distributed widely, is ultimately your responsibility, and lives on forever. Comply with copyright and trademark laws, e.g. don’t plagiarize or cut and paste from another site.

Use common sense. Maintain confidentiality of proprietary information and content related to the company and its business units. Make sure you social media efforts don’t violate the company’s privacy policy. Don’t comment on anything related to legal matters, litigation, or any parties with whom Scripps is in litigation without appropriate approval. Follow others on social media sites that may be helpful to learning about your job or your beat, or how better to utilize social media. Manage your “Friends” carefully to avoid concerns of bias. Don’t let your association with a group, as a “fan” or otherwise, be misinterpreted.

Be interactive. Use platforms that give you the broad reach and optimal interactivity, such as Facebook Fan Pages.

Pause before publishing. If you’re about to publish something that makes you even the slightest bit uncomfortable, don’t shrug it off and hit ‘send.’ Take a minute. Figure out what’s bothering you and fix it. If you’re still unsure, you might want to discuss it with your manager or the legal department. Ultimately, the responsibility for what you publish is yours. Strive for accuracy, clarity and transparency with the audience and sources; correct factual errors; assure diverse voices in your stories. Double- check and verify information gathered from social networks before you take the information into a print, on-air or online story for the company.

Make it a conversation. Be real and personable. As long as it doesn’t jeopardize the reporting/exclusivity of a story, consider sharing parts of the reporting process with your followers. Where does your reporting have you traveling? What meeting are you sitting in? Talk to your social media audience like you would talk to real people in professional situations. Avoid overly dull or “composed” language. Don’t be afraid to bring in your own personality. Try to avoid contentious conversations with readers. Take the high road in disagreements. The reader doesn’t have to remain calm, but you should. Don’t be baited into saying something you would regret or would reflect badly on you (or Scripps).

Add value. There are more than 460,000 words in the English language and at least twice as many blogs. The best way to get yours read is to write things that people will value. There are plenty of blogs out there that are divisive, crude and rude. Social communication should be thought- provoking and build a sense of community that is helpful to our customers, partners, and co-workers. Provide insight that helps people improve their knowledge or skills, build their businesses, do their jobs, solve problems, or understand the news business a little better.

Be the ears and eyes of your community. Social media can truly empower both journalists and the public. Be the eyes and ears by providing news others can use while out and about (such as dispatching news about traffic or events).

Keep learning. Identify and pay attention to savvy and informative social media users in the community. They can often be information and connectivity goldmines and help your own social media talents grow. Keep in mind that this is an evolving medium. It means we need to be flexible and change as technology, interests and the needs of our readers change.

We have made it easy to comment on posts, however we require civility and encourage full names to that end (first initial, last name is OK). Please read our guidelines here before commenting.

  • http://fletcher-prince.com/ Mary Fletcher Jones

    A social media policy is only good if it is actionable by employees.  I can understand their need for clarifying rules and boundaries, and suggesting best practices, but if they are going to enforce this, they will have to back it up with extensive, ongoing workplace training (which will have to be mandatory), as well as ongoing communications and reminders.

    And they shouldn’t recommend that staff use tools like Facebook Pages for professional accounts unless they are ready to provide training, monitoring, and oversight for those tools.  Otherwise, they’re just asking for trouble.

  • http://www.facebook.com/rika.dotson Rika Dotson

    At first glance, I thought…oh great, one more way corporations are going to censor their employees…but upon reading the full article, I think there are some very salient points and that this is a pretty good model for most people who are struggling with trying to figure out how to incorporate social media into their own marketing mix. Some good rules of thumb for what and how to post.

  • http://ctiedje.wordpress.com/ ctiedje

    Forgive me for being so blunt, but I think this policy is terrible. I understand a company needs to protect themselves, but this reads like an angry lawyer wrote it and not someone who is trying to create a community. I think this policy would scare people away from using social media rather than encouraging them to engage.

  • http://seanwardwell.tumblr.com Sean Wardwell

    I really don’t have a problem with the policy. Here’s why:

    http://seanwardwell.tumblr.com/post/7088536703/the-social-network-policy

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Raoul-Duke/100001405609704 Raoul Duke

    The people (employees) shouldn’t be afraid of there Government (Employer), the Government (Employer) should be afraid of there people (employees).

    Posted via my fake Facebook account.

  • Anonymous

    I find it completely baffling that we continue to pretend that it’s possible and advisable for journalists to have two personas. http://joymayer.com/2011/06/30/journalists-please-drop-the-personality-disorder-and-just-be-yourselves/

  • Anonymous

    Mark Halperin of TIME didn’t use social media to call Obama a “dic*” on Morning Joe of MSNBC. He said it on MSNBC. Kind of odd it has not been posted on Romenesko, esp. as MSNBC has just suspended Halperin.

  • http://www.catheycommunications.com/blog Robert.R.Cathey

    Many journalists have personal interests that embrace their profession. Would it “reflect badly on Scripps, its business operations or … colleagues” If a Scripps employee were to critique the content distributed via another Scripps property, or if they were to question the judgment shown by an editor from another publication who has a peripheral (collegial) interest in Scripps?

    Similarly, if “The primary purpose of a personal account is for employees to connect with friends or others with similar interests that aren’t work related,” then might this lead a journalist to hold back from engaging in social commentary with other journalists with whom they interact online? Such engagement could be considered “work related” if the journalists’ beat covers the topic being discussed on their private graph. While this probably does not necessarily reflect negatively on Scripps, the risk to the employee might be seen as too high, leading them to withdraw from professional online engagement of a personal nature, depriving them of valuable connections and learning that would improve their value, both as a professional and as an employee.

    Overall, this policy seems a little chilly to me. It certainly does not embrace the power that an employee’s social graph has to expand the Scripps brand and reflect positively on it. It seems to suggest that an employee’s personal social engagement only has power to damage the Scripps brand and no power whatsoever to enhance it.