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
    MrBeck (profile), 13 Mar 2010 @ 6:21am

    Don't scoop the wires

    While most folks think of the wires as feeds to conventional news distribution channels and websites, that is not what lies behind the admonition to "not scoop the wires". Thousand of desktops in financial institutions receive a feed of Reuters wire news (in addition to various feeds of financial data) and Reuters compares its delivery of news of market changing events to its competitors (DJ, AFP, Blomberg, ..) in milliseconds, as do some of the larger customers. He who is first wins (the next contract). Market changing events are released as headlines only initially to get them out as quickly as possible. The story follows and develops as the event is better understood and reported. What constitutes a Market Changing Event? How about an earthquake in Chile and copper prices, very significant for the initial event (the headline). You have a third of a second to buy cheap copper. Not much interest afterwards to the commodities desk as the market will now have adjusted, therefore no money to be made.

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