Staffers at the Wall Street Journal recently received an updated corporate conduct policy, including sections on how to behave when using social networks such as Twitter and Facebook. The response to the new rules of engagement, however, has been far from positive so far, with Jeff Jarvis saying the Journal was guilty of “missing the point.” Jarvis says the new rules don’t allow reporters to “make their reporting collaborative,” and that one of the benefits of such social networks is that they “provide the opportunity for reporters and editors to come out from behind the institutional voice of the paper … and to become human.”

The need to have a conduct policy is a reality for major newspapers, and it makes sense to deal with new areas such as Twitter and Facebook — the paper I work for is developing a similar policy. But I have to agree with Jeff about the Journal’s restrictions on reporter behaviour. Obviously, a newspaper doesn’t want to give away the store and tell everyone what stories it is working on, or tip its hand in a variety of other ways, and probably doesn’t want to go into detail about how certain stories emerged (especially if it was a fortuitous accident). But Jarvis is right that talking about stories that are under way can also have tremendous benefits.

The biggest point, however, is that Twitter is inherently personal — that’s why people use it, and why they enjoy it and become loyal to those they follow. The idea that you can maintain a strict division between the personal and professional just doesn’t jibe with the way social networks (or human beings) operate. Naturally, a newspaper like the Journal doesn’t want its reporters discussing every detail of their personal lives on Twitter, and no one would argue with that. A little taste of the personal can have a tremendous impact, however, and can build loyalty with readers. Media outlets like the Journal ignore that at their peril. Steve Buttry of Gazette Communications in Iowa has a good take on the new rules as well, and so does Gina Chen.

About the author

Mathew 2430 posts

I'm a Toronto-based senior writer with Fortune magazine, and my favorite things to write about are social technology, media and the evolution of online behavior

6 Responses to “WSJ rules on Twitter: too restrictive”
  1. […] more, check out: “WSJ rules on Twitter: too restrictive,” “Thoughts on Wall Street Journal’s rules for staff using social media and […]

  2. See, I actually think that Jeff Jarvis, et al. are those who are missing the point.

    WSJ and other great big “concerns” like them invest quite a bit of money into building THEIR brand. Those who work for them try to leverage that BIG brand to create their OWN brand.

    If the individuals who work for WSJ (as an example) were to take the money and effort and marketing that WSJ put into creating their OWN brand rather than constantly, consistently, and exclusively reinforcing the brand of their master… err, employer… well, then, that's just a little bit of money that WSJ ISN'T making, that theoretically it COULD be making if that same time spent talking like a “real person” were instead spent paying homage to the mother ship.

    This is business, and that's why it's called “work” and why people don't complain about their long commute and long hours spent driving to “fun” every day. They pay you and, in exchange, they own the efforts of your labor.

    If you work for a huge company and you want to leverage their brand to build your own — guess what? They don't want that, they probably won't like that, and they might just fire you and replace you like the little cog in the great big machine that you really are.

    – Daiv http://Twitter.com/DaivRawks

  3. […] is an update to a recent post about the Wall Street Journal and its policies on Twitter use by its staff. In that post, I […]

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