The New York Times on Friday imposed updated social media guidelines on its journalists. The new guidelines require journalists to avoid expressing partisan opinions or editorializing so readers won’t notice their bias.
The Washington Post saw this as a victory for Presidential counselor Kellyanne Conway who often “complains about reporters’ Twitter feeds, accusing journalists of posting biased not-so-journalistic snark about President Donald J. Trump”:
Journalists’ Twitter habits so irritate Conway that once, toward the end of the 2016 presidential campaign, she said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that she actually printed out all of the tweets posted by certain reporters and calculated the negativity rate.
“There are people who cover our campaign who actually just slander our candidate on Twitter,” Conway said. “Ninety-two percent of one of them — I have them all on my desk. We printed them all out. Ninety-two percent of at least two of our embeds’ tweets are negative toward Donald Trump. Why are they on our campaign plane?”
On Fox News, in January, Conway said that “if you read people’s Twitter feed, that crap would never pass editorial muster in a newspaper or on your TV show and your network here, nor should it.”
Discussing journalists during an event at the Newseum in Washington in April, Conway said, “Some of those Twitter feeds are a hot mess.”
“If you read people’s Twitter feeds, I’m telling you this — it would never pass editorial muster,” she added. “It just wouldn’t.”
The new guidelines may be a victory for Conway, but it is a Pyrrhic victory because the guidelines will hide the Times’ reporters vicious bias. It was more helpful for Times readers to see the bias that has been so evident in their reporters’ social media. It gives us information with which we can decide how much credibility their writing deserves. Now that useful information is banned so the Times can falsely claim it is not biased nor partisan.
As the Times put it:
Social media presents potential risks for The Times. If our journalists are perceived as biased or if they engage in editorializing on social media, that can undercut the credibility of the entire newsroom.
We’ve always made clear that newsroom employees should avoid posting anything on social media that damages our reputation for neutrality and fairness. This memo offers more detailed guidelines.
According to the Times article, the new guidelines will be enforced by department heads and violations will be noted on performance reviews.
You can read the key points of the new guidelines as reported by the Times here.