Social Media Rules Of The Road On Election Day
(Editor’s note on July 27, 2017: Click here to go to an updated special section about the do’s and don’t's of social media.)
This weekend, on Monday and especially 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 remarkable 2016 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.”
After all, we take great pride in our objectivity and independence, and the fairness of our political coverage. We do not want a few words on social media to wrongly suggest a bias one way or the other.
What should you do? Some guidance follows.
As we’ve said before, what anyone who works at NPR tweets or retweets may look like something that “NPR is reporting.”
Now, as you would expect, NPR has a system in place for spreading news on social media on Election Day/Night.
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 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’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.
Finally, 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.
Related, and important, note about booing and cheering in the press box:
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.
(“Memmos;’ Nov. 4, 2016)
November 4, 2016