Social Media Rules Of The Road On Election Day

For those who have been with NPR on other election days, most of this guidance should be familiar.  But everyone should know that, as we’ve said before:
– On Election Day and Night, you will be tempted to tweet, post to Facebook and otherwise express yourself on social media. There’s probably a lot you’d like to say about the campaign and the candidates.
Please bear in mind that the coming days are as important as any to protecting NPR’s reputation as a trusted news source. All of us need to take great care and remember, as the Ethics Handbook says, that it is critical to:
“Conduct yourself online just as you would in any other public circumstances as an NPR journalist.”
We all need to remember that there’s no booing or cheering in the press box and that the tone of our tweets or posts can be as important as the content.
This may seem obvious, but is worth making clear for those doing this for the first time. On Election Day/Night, we do not celebrate or complain about the results on social media.
And it’s not just the obvious words and expressions (WTF! OMG!) we have to avoid. Will a reader see sarcasm, anger, disbelief, joy at someone’s defeat? Tone is in the eye of the beholder. We have to be as careful with the tone of our social media posts as we are with the way we say things on the air.
It’s also not OK, by the way, to retweet someone else who does those things and expect it won’t be seen as you or NPR endorsing that opinion. (More on why retweets may be seen as endorsements is below.)
– What anyone who works at NPR tweets or retweets may look like something that “NPR is reporting.”
So, this is important:
The Politics Team and our Digital News professionals are in charge of what “NPR is reporting” on social media. If you want to post about the day’s news, let them go first and then retweet what they’re reporting. Don’t even get ahead of them based on what you may see in emails to the desk that are marked “reportable.” Those are for internal use first and the language in them may not have been given a final edit. Let that news go out on our various platforms and then share it.
– Speaking of retweeting, our position is that retweets may be seen as endorsements. Please remember that you should:
“Tweet and retweet as if what you’re saying or passing along is information that you would put on the air or in a ‘traditional’ NPR.org news story. If it needs context, attribution, clarification or ‘knocking down,’ provide it.”
It is especially important on Election Day/Night to avoid retweeting the “news” posted by some websites about what they have supposedly learned from early exit polls. Whatever conclusions they draw from that data will likely be wrong.
– There will be things said in the newsroom on Election Day/Night that are not “ready for air.” Correspondents and editors will be talking about what they’re seeing and hearing. They’ll be making calls to sources. Editors will be debating what words can and can’t be used. There will be moments of confusion. Those are not things that should show up in your social media threads. Also respect your colleagues’ feelings about photos. Not everyone wants to have their faces show up on social media.
There’s a good chance, by the way, that friends at other news organizations, other people you know and members of your family will be asking “What’s NPR hearing?” Tell them you love them, but that they’ll have to wait for us to report the news.

November 6, 2018

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