The BBC editors site has a post on the update to the BBC’s social media guidelines for journalists and for ‘official’ social media streams for correspondents.
The reasoning for that distinction was interesting:
We label the Twitter accounts of some presenters and correspondents as “official” – and are also today publishing some specific guidance for them [64KB PDF]. This activity is regarded as BBC News output and tweets should normally be consistent with this, reflecting and focusing on areas relevant to the role or specialism, and avoiding personal interests or unrelated issues. A senior editor keeps an eye on tweets from these accounts after they’re sent out.
Given some of my recent posts about tweeting as a journalist during the riots, this stuck out. I agree with the idea of consistency; if you are a BBC person then always tweet like you are the BBC. I think that is a point worth taking further. If you are a journalist, always tweet like a journalist.
Another point that caught my eye was
Finally, we remind people that programme or genre content – like @BBCBreaking andBBC News on Facebook - should normally be checked by a second person before it goes out. The guidance also urges people to think carefully about the practicalities and editorial purpose of this activity. It shouldn’t be started “because it’s what everyone does these days”.
The statement actually suggest that it should only be started if you have the resources to see it through. In principle, sound advice. In practice it could be a charter to simply not do it.
Credit where credit is due
The guidelines are pretty much concerned with output – what BBC people put out on social networks. But it’s the area of attribution that generates the most comment (when people are not bemoaning the character limit). The BBC came in for a bit of stick during the riots for crediting platforms not people for pictures from social networking sites. Pictures where from Twitter and not the person who put them there.
It seems that some people think that the ‘undue prominence’ argument is a suitable lever to get the BBC to change their approach. I think that’s a red herring. In this context they are sources first and commercial entities second. Taking that approach would suggest that no commercial company could be mentioned during the news. Perhaps the best you could argue is that there is an ‘undue reliance’ on social media instead of putting journalists on the street.
But I digress. FishFingers flags the issue asking:
if a comment is sent to the BBC and it is read on air or posted as part of “live” coverage, why are we told that it came from Twitter? Why does the communication medium have to even be mentioned? Why not simply say that the person sent a message?
It’s a good point but I think you do need to say where it came from as well as who said/posted it. Credit where credit is due but as journalists we should where possible, always cite our sources – makes it a bit more transparent doesn’t it?