News Leadership 3.0

October 15, 2009

NPR to social media: Bring it on

The leadership language of National Public Radio’s new social media guidelines offers a positive counterpoint to the Washington Post’s

I was interested to read NPR’s new guidelines for social media by its journalists and to compare them with guidelines recently put in effect at The Washington Post.

I lamented that the Post cast social media as a minefield, with a litany of “don’ts” and discouraging signals.

Just contrast the opening paragraphs of each organization’s guidelines:

The Post:

“Social networks are communications media, and a part of our everyday lives. They can be valuable tools in gathering and disseminating news and information. They also create some potential hazards we need to recognize. When using social networking tools for reporting or for our personal lives, we must remember that Washington Post journalists are always Washington Post journalists.  The following guidelines apply to all Post journalists, without limitation to the subject matter of their assignments.

“When using social networks such as Facebook, LinkedIn, My Space or Twitter for reporting, we must protect our professional integrity.  Washington Post journalists should identify themselves as such. We must be accurate in our reporting and transparent about our intentions when participating.  We must be concise yet clear when describing who we are and what information we seek.”

Leadership code words: Hazards. Protect professional identity.


“Social networking sites, such as Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter have become an integral part of everyday life for millions of people around the world. As NPR grows to serve the audience well beyond the radio, social media is becoming an increasingly important aspect of our interaction and our transparency with our audience and with a variety of communities. Properly used, social networking sites can also be very valuable newsgathering and reporting tools and can speed research and extend a reporter’s contacts, and we encourage our journalists to take advantage of them.

“The line between private and public activity has been blurred by these tools, which is why we are providing guidance now. Information from your Facebook page, your blog entries, and your tweets - even if you intend them to be personal messages to your friends or family - can be easily circulated beyond your intended audience. This content, therefore, represents you and NPR to the outside world as much as a radio story or story for does. As in all of your reporting, the NPR Code of Ethics should guide you in your use of social media. You should read and be sure you understand the Code.”

Leadership code words: Increasingly important. Very valuable.

Specific guidelines aside, which leadership message do you think will work best for traditional news organizations that want to encourage journalists to boldly go into social networks?


Update: Here’s an interesting post from Steve Buttry that looks at another aspect of the Post and NPR guidelines. Recommended:

Thanks for posting.

It’s a complex topic for sure, as just one “bad apple” can make the whole organization look bad. Not sure I like blurred line between personal and public activity that the NPR is talking about - I for one wouldn’t want to have to consider representing my employer in a favorable way when talking to friends and family on social networks. -John from Black and decker toaster oven reviews

I will forward this article to him. Pretty sure he will have a good read. Thanks for sharing!
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Leadership code words: Hazards. Protect professional identity.
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Exploring innovation, transformation and leadership in a new ecosystem of news, by journalist and change advocate Michele McLellan.

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