Do reporters undermine their employers' scoops by tweeting them first?

New York | Overheard on Twitter

An Associated Press memo chiding reporters who tweeted that AP journalists had been arrested at the Occupy Wall Street protests spurred a discussion about whether journalists compete with their news outlets by tweeting news first. The AP's social media guidelines state, "Don’t break news that we haven’t published, no matter the format.” The New York Times' Brian Stelter, a prolific Twitter user who was praised for tweeting what he saw while reporting on the aftermath of the Joplin, Mo., tornado, asked, "Shouldn't the wire speed up?" That spurred a response from @nytfridge, an anonymous account normally focused on food: "Well which is it @brianstelter? Should journos serve and tend their brand or their institution's? Can't have it both ways." Stelter's answer: "Many of us have it both ways every day."

Liz Heron, social media editor for the Times, told me via email, "Brian has it right here — saying reporters have to choose between their individual work and the institution they work for is a false choice. ... In fact, the two approaches are complementary. If our staff uses social media well, it only serves to enhance our journalism as a whole."

Before Twitter, this is the sort of conversation that would have stayed in the newsroom:

Heron's full statement on the issue:

Encouraging individual journalists to use social media for reporting is a key part of our journalistic strategy and an important part of our future success as a news organization. Brian has it right here — saying reporters have to choose between their individual work and the institution they work for is a false choice. We don’t believe it’s an either/or. In fact, the two approaches are complementary. If our staff uses social media well, it only serves to enhance our journalism as a whole.

  • Steve Myers

    Steve Myers was the managing editor of Poynter.org until August 2012, when he became the deputy managing editor and senior staff writer for The Lens, a nonprofit investigative news site in New Orleans.

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