I keep getting notes from readers about mistakes in the L.A. Times and on its website, including today's subhead gaffe saying the Hubble Space Telescope got new* telescopes rather than gyroscopes. I don't post them usually, but from the flow I'm convinced readers are mentally tallying the errors that make them cringe. Yesterday, though, a mistake went a little viral. Twitter users started passing around an old story from the Times archive about the state Supreme Court voiding Prop. 8. That wasn't any fault of the paper. Then one of the Times' gazillion staff Twitter accounts mistakenly retweeted the story, under the LAT logo. Upshot: the paper did a little mea culpa, analysis ensued among media types, and Fishbowl LA posted a correction acknowledging that its editor got sucked in too.
[* Argh, I typed now instead of new then published. Happens at small unpaid sites without copy editors too!]
The Wall Street Journal and Post followed the Los Angeles Times, which made a similar update to its rules in March, with a lengthy list of "social media" guidelines that make clear staffers are always linked to the paper when they engage in online activities. "Assume that your professional life and your personal life merge online regardless of your care in separating them. Don't write or post anything that would embarrass the LAT or compromise your ability to do your job," one of the rules states. Adds another, "Assume that everything you write or receive on a social media site is public and knowable to everyone with access to a computer."
Even with that strict approach, the Los Angeles Times is among the most active newspapers on Twitter, with some 144 accounts, half of them by individual reporters and other news staffers. "We understand people need to be more casual to fit in to that culture," says Andrew Nystrom, the Times' senior producer for social media. "We encourage them to say what is on their minds and that gets a better response."