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Wall Street Journal Takes Wrong Turn With New Social Media Rules

The Wall Street Journal issued a new set of guidelines regarding how social media gets used in the newsroom. The rules are a big mistake and demonstrate that management there has failed to grasp how the rules of journalism are changing, and the opportunity social media presents for reporters.

There are a few good, common sense guidelines, like: “Never misrepresent yourself using a false name when you’re acting on behalf of your Dow Jones publication or service.”

But others are sadly off-base:

*”Consult your editor before “connecting” to or “friending” any reporting contacts who may need to be treated as confidential sources. Openly “friending” sources is akin to publicly publishing your Rolodex.” This should be encouraged, as in the Beatblogging experiment.

* “Let our coverage speak for itself, and don’t detail how an article was reported, written or edited.” Another missed opportunity. Journalism is a process, and many readers are interested in knowing about that process. It also promotes transparency, which helps build trust.

* “Don’t discuss articles that haven’t been published, meetings you’ve attended or plan to attend with staff or sources, or interviews that you’ve conducted.” Of course, if you have a big exclusive, it might be wise to keep it under wraps. But I tweet about upcoming columns all the time, and find the conversation and feedback in advance helpful to shaping my thoughts, and building interest in the column itself.

* Business and pleasure should not be mixed on services like Twitter. Common sense should prevail, but if you are in doubt about the appropriateness of a Tweet or posting, discuss it with your editor before sending.” Yikes, good luck enforcing that. Does this mean they’re going to make Kara Swisher stop saying anything about her personal life?

Just as I was about to post this, someone sent me this link from Venture Capitalist Fred Wilson, and I think for the most part, we agree on this.


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