The AP’s new Twitter “retweeting” policy gets one thing right and one thing wrong.
The new policy updates the guidelines set by AP in July, which said that reporters could retweet material from “AP-branded accounts.” Now, reporters retweeting material without making it abundantly clear that they’re not in agreement with the original tweet—especially if that tweet offers some sort of opinion—will presumably get in some sort of trouble. (For examples of how to retweet under the new AP policy, head to Mallory Jean Tenore’s post over at Poynter.) The one new element of this that everyone (read: people in comments boards) seems to be railing against is the placement of the “RT” in any retweet. (The AP suggests placing it before a staffer’s written material, and not before the “@[TwitterName].”) This is what’s wrong with the new policy—but insofar as shuffling the placement of the RT is anything wrong, it’s a minor gripe.
But what is revolutionary about the policy, in a weird, kowtowing to traditional authority type of way, is the fact that the AP is attempting to impose some type of editorial judgment—albeit self-judgment—on the content its reporters choose to retweet. And while there is an argument to be made for such a policy stifling the flow of information or preventing staffers from tweeting pertinent information effortlessly, I think those arguments are mostly theoretical attempts at finding some avenue through which a criticism of the AP’s new policy is valid. By asking its reporting staff on Twitter to make it plainly evident when they are retweeting someone else’s opinion as opposed to someone else’s news isn’t some sign of journalistic muzzling/bucking tweeting conventions/apocalyptic downfall of the Interwebs.* (And it sure as hell isn’t the AP saying that its reporters aren’t allowed to have opinions, as some have suggested.)
If anything, it’s simply pointing out to staff members that their actions as AP reporters have ramifications that reflect both upon themselves and the organization, which is trying to be a credible news organization each day. Approaching social media with a level of decorum, both in speech and how you’re disseminating information, is a logical extension of that.
*I’m well aware that my own Twitter page says that retweets are not endorsements, with a “Duh” appended. (These damn kids!) There’s an entire argument to be had about whether retweets on Twitter constitute endorsements (some would say no, which would make any disclaimer such as my own completely pointless; but some journalists seem to think that retweets do constitute endorsements.) The argument here is whether the AP’s new policy is really stifling its reporters. I’m sure no AP staffers will get in trouble for retweeting that the Eagles are the best team in the NFL, for instance.