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To Tweet or Not to Tweet

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By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, October 1, 2009; 10:03 AM

I have all kinds of things to say on Twitter, which I consider to be a cool and compelling form of communication with the wider world.

Even before The Washington Post put out guidelines for its staff on using social media, I followed some rough rules of my own. These would include:

a) Don't say something that makes you look like a blithering idiot.

b) Don't appear to be in the pocket of Democrats or Republicans (or birthers or truthers).

c) Stick to subjects on which you actually have a clue.

d) Refrain from boring people with the minutiae of your daily life.

e) Don't say anything you couldn't defend as fair analysis in print or on the air.

Now the blabosphere is in a bit of a tizzy over The Post's guidelines. (I responded by saying that henceforth I would tweet only about the weather and dessert recipes. That was a bit of attempted humor.)

Some excerpts: "When using these networks, nothing we do must call into question the impartiality of our news judgment. We never abandon the guidelines that govern the separation of news from opinion, the importance of fact and objectivity, the appropriate use of language and tone, and other hallmarks of our brand of journalism. . . .

"Post journalists must refrain from writing, tweeting or posting anything -- including photographs or video -- that could be perceived as reflecting political, racial, sexist, religious or other bias or favoritism that could be used to tarnish our journalistic credibility."

Not to put a damper on a great fuss, but I think this is entirely reasonable. I don't see it as a corporate attempt to crush creativity and sap the soul. People follow journalists on Twitter and Facebook because they're interested in what the person writes, blogs or says on television. We can't pretend we're random people who can just pop off at will.

No one is saying we can't engage on these sites, or that some Post editor has to provide tweet-by-tweet approval.


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