AP adds new social media guidelines on live-tweeting, friending/following sources

Associated Press
The Associated Press updated its staff social media guidelines today with a new section on live-tweeting news and an updated section on how to connect with newsmakers on social media.

Journalists are instructed that live-tweeting public news events is fine, but their “first obligation is to provide full details to the appropriate news desk,” and they should not share “exclusive material” before giving the wire a chance to publish it first.

The AP says it’s OK to build social media ties with politicians, newsmakers and sources, but that staffers should “make this kind of contact with figures on both sides of controversial issues.” It also tells staffers to “avoid interacting with newsmakers on their public pages — for instance, commenting on their posts.”

Full excerpts of those sections are at the end of this post.

The update to the policy resparked a debate about the AP’s restrictions on retweeting information. The policy says staffers should go out of their way when constructing each retweet to make it clear they’re not expressing a personal opinion or endorsement.

AP Social Media Editor Eric Carvin got a lot of questions on Twitter about the retweet policy from counterparts at Reuters (Anthony De Rosa), NPR (Eric’s brother, Andy Carvin), and The Wall Street Journal (Neal Mann).


Here’s what the AP policy says about live-tweeting:

AP journalists have live-tweeted news events on several occasions with great success. Here are some guidelines on live-tweeting:

  • News events (press conferences, sports events, etc.) that are being broadcast live: AP staffers are welcome to live-tweet these events. However, when major news breaks, a staffer’s first obligation is to provide full details to the appropriate news desk for use in AP services if the desk isn’t tuned in already.
    After providing this information and handling any other immediate AP work, the staffer is then free to tweet or post information about the news development.
  • Exclusive material: AP news services must have the opportunity to publish exclusive text, photo and video material before it appears on social networks. Once that material has been published, staffers are welcome to tweet and post a link to it on AP or subscriber platforms.
  • Incremental reporting threads: AP staffers should never share on social networks incremental information that, if closely held, could lead to important, exclusive content.
  • Other content: Other material you have gathered may be shared on social networks. This includes material we commonly refer to as “cutting room floor” content — material that is not needed for a specific AP product.

On friending/following sources:

It is acceptable to extend and accept Facebook friend requests from sources, politicians and newsmakers if necessary for reporting purposes, and to follow them on Twitter.

However, friending and “liking” political candidates or causes may create a perception among people unfamiliar with the protocol of social networks that AP staffers are advocates. Therefore, staffers should try to make this kind of contact with figures on both sides of controversial issues.

We should avoid interacting with newsmakers on their public pages – for instance, commenting on their posts.

Earlier: AP issues staff guidelines on retweets, no ‘personal opinions’ allowed or implied (Poynter) | AP updates social media guidelines a week after warning staffers about expressing opinions (Poynter) | AP tells staff how to correct erroneous tweets (Poynter) | AP uses itself as an example in Stylebook’s social media chapter (Poynter).

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.