Reuters Social Media Policy Gets It Half Right, Half Wrong

from the scoop-de-what? dept

Just a couple of months ago, I wrote about something that I thought was really impressive by Thomson Reuters. A Reuters blogger wrote a blog post on his official Reuters blog questioning Reuters itself after rumors started spreading that the company had spiked an article after pressure from the article's subject. Now, the two stories might cancel each other out in some way. Spiking a story based on pressure from the subject is bad, but allowing an employee to publicly question the action on a company blog shows an openness that I thought was impressive.

However, with the release of Reuters' new social media policies, it looks like the blogger, Chris Clair, would have broken one of the new rules:
The advent of social media does not change your relationship with the company that employs you -- do not use social media to embarrass or disparage Thomson Reuters.
Then there's this:
We're in a competitive business and while the spirit of social media is collaborative we need to take care not to undermine the commercial basis of our company.
The thing is, since you are in a competitive business, it's worth noting that all of your competitors are trying to "undermine the basis" of your company -- and thus it tends to be better to undermine yourself before someone else undermines you. So, while I understand why Reuters would say the following about Twitter usage:
As with blogging within Reuters News, you should make sure that if you have hard news content that it is broken first via the wire. Don't scoop the wire.
It doesn't really make much sense. It also goes against what some at Reuters have successfully done. You can still "scoop the wire" and then publish a full report on the wire. In fact, if you use Twitter correctly, you can build a lot more interest in the upcoming full story.

While there are plenty of reasonable and useful suggestions in the Reuters social media policies, some of it seems to go against what Reuters own Editor in Chief, David Schlesinger, said just last year:
The old means of control don't work.
The old categories don't work.
The old ways of thinking won't work.
We all need to come to terms with that.

Fundamentally, the old media won't control news dissemination in the future. And organisations can't control access using old forms of accreditation any more.

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  1. icon
    Mike Masnick (profile), 12 Mar 2010 @ 3:44pm


    Reuters is still the number one "old media" company I'd put my money on in any survive-or-collapse pool.

    I tend to agree that they're better than almost anyone. Though, does the Guardian in the UK count? The Washington Post has some possibilities as well.

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