LAT updates its social media rules

The Los Angeles Times has revised and reorganized its guidelines from last March that staffers are supposed to follow on social media networks. Political advocacy is still out, for instance, but the rules for Twitter et al are less ponderous than the ones issued at the Wall Street Journal earlier this year. "The Times is to be, above all else, a principled news organization. In deed and in appearance, journalists must keep themselves – and The Times – above reproach," says the memo co-signed by Editor Russ Stanton. I'm not sure what all the changes are, but here are some highlights of the new guidelines.

Integrity is our most important commodity: Avoid writing or posting anything that would embarrass The Times or compromise your ability to do your job....

Even if you use privacy tools (determining who can view your page or profile, for instance), assume that everything you write, exchange or receive on a social media site is public....

Editorial employees may not use their positions at the paper to promote personal agendas or causes. Nor should they allow their outside activities to undermine the impartiality of Times coverage, in fact or appearance.

Be aware of perceptions. If you “friend” a source or join a group on one side of a debate, do so with the other side as well. Also understand that readers may view your participation in a group as your acceptance of its views; be clear that you’re looking for story ideas or simply collecting information. Consider that you may be an observer of online content without actively participating....

Staff members may not engage in political advocacy – as members of a campaign or an organization specifically concerned with political change. Nor may they contribute money to a partisan campaign or candidate. No staff member may run for or accept appointment to any public office. Staff members should avoid public expressions or demonstrations of their political views – bumper stickers, lawn signs and the like.

Just as political bumper stickers and lawn signs are to be avoided in the offline world, so too are partisan expressions online.


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