News Ltd editorial boss – we don’t like our journalists using Twitter

The group editorial director of News Ltd, Australia’s biggest publisher, says that the company is “very uncomfortable” with its journalists using Twitter to tell followers news.  

In an interview with today’s Media section of The Australian, Campbell Reid says:

“It’s our belief that journalists who work for us who have news to tell should do so through the vehicles they are employed to supply material for. We’re very uncomfortable with staff tweeting in a professional sense under their own names, for a whole bunch of reasons, not the least of which is legal protection and concern about what is published.

“Like so many things that burn so brightly on the internet, we’re watching to see how it goes. We don’t want to spend a lot of time developing policies … and in three months’ time everyone’s realised it’s another way of having fairly boring conversations.”

As well as The Australian, News Ltd’s publications include The Daily Telegraph in Sydney, The Herald Sun in Melbourne, along with The Courier-Mail in Brisbane. It also publishes news.com.au and the newly-launched opionion site The Punch, where the whole editorial team is on Twitter.

Indeed, many journalists employed by News Ltd do have Twitter profiles. Dave Earley, of the Courier Mail, has published a directory of journalists on Twitter that includes  more than 100 News Ltd staff.

Reid comes from a print heritage, including a stint as editor of Sydney’s Daily Telegraph. He is probably most infamous for sending a dead fish to The ABC’s Media Watch.

Although his comments come within a piece by Sally Jackson which is broadly positive about the use of Twitter as a journalistic tool, The Australian has previously expressed scepticism about Twitter. Earlier this year, a leader comment from the newspaper predicted Twitter would fail. And the newspaper later returned to the issue, with an essay on why it would not replace newspapers.

 News Ltd is owned by News Corp, which is also the parent company of social networking site MySpace.

Comments


  1. Ian Lyons
    29 Jun 09
    10:25 am

  2. Twitter is a very tricky beast to understand because it is changing so rapidly and is completely different depending on how you use it. The way you’ve presented the quotes makes it seem that Mr Reid believes the media’s role is to tell us what to think – and we only have “fairly boring conversations” amongst ourselves. I think that’s a rather dangerous position to hold onto.

    Take a look at this amazing example of a media organisation harnessing the cognitive horsepower of its readers to achieve something quite amazing …
    http://www.niemanlab.org/2009/.....xperiment/

  3. Natalie
    29 Jun 09
    10:42 am

  4. Is Campbell Reid concerned that journos on twitter aren’t going to publish stories via their employer’s media? That fear is entirely unfounded – I follow quite a few journalists on twitter and they always link to their employer’s website. Often I see journalists who aren’t on twitter necessarily publishing stories to internet sources without links – in my opinion, print journalism needs to employ hyperlinks if it is serious about surviving online.

    I’ve actually tweeted about incidents that have happened in my suburb and had a quick DM from one of my local journalists to find out more. Shouldn’t that demonstrate twitter’s power to connect and disseminate information quickly?

  5. Steven Noble
    29 Jun 09
    10:45 am

  6. Bizarre. Has anyone ever read a 140 character Tweet from a journalist and thought “right, I don’t need to read their article now”??? The far more likely scenarios are:

    [1] No impact whatsoever
    [2] The Tweet makes me want to go find and read the article
    [3] Hundreds of Tweets about a topic from every which way make me feel I don’t need to read any articles the topic — but this happens whether or not journos are among the Tweeters

  7. Stephen Collins
    29 Jun 09
    10:55 am

  8. So, this is, as usual about FUD. News Ltd seem not to understand the medium of Twitter and so express discomfort about it.

    That’s a logical response – we often fear the unknown.

    But the more sensible response might be to build capacity and understanding – particularly around drawing readers in. If the journalism is good and the journalist tweets the existence of their story, I’m jumping over to read it. Quite the opposite of ignoring it.

  9. C K Cash
    29 Jun 09
    12:19 pm

  10. Hilarious…I can see many journos now come up with great monikers to hide their identity when they twitter

  11. David
    29 Jun 09
    12:28 pm

  12. This is where it becomes quite obvious that heritage media is losing its touch.

    To view Twitter as an obstacle to news, rather than using it to try to complement a publication’s activities is a very uninformed view.

    Most of the journalists I follow on Twitter do not release news through their tweets, they give their opinions on what is happening in their sphere and an insight into their day to day lives.

    This builds the profile of a journalist so that you actually want to pick up the paper and see what they are writing about rather than stopping you from picking up the publication.

    So this makes me think that either:
    1. Campbell has no idea what Twitter is; or
    2. Campbell knows exactly what Twitter is, but thinks that an insight into his journalists personalities might actually turn people off their publications, rather than endear them to it….

    Dave

  13. I Remember
    29 Jun 09
    12:30 pm

  14. It wasn’t that long ago that a young Lachie Murcdoch barred reporters from accessing a new-fangled thing called the Internet at News Ltd’s Surry Hills HQ. He thought it would waste too much time.

  15. Brad Howarth
    29 Jun 09
    12:37 pm

  16. In response to Dave – it is indicative of Campbell Reid’s level of ‘in-touchedness’, not that of ‘heritage’ media as a whole (entire books can be written on that topic). The problem here seems to be that much of heritage media (ie, the journalists who tweet) are in touch, but that management in this instance is not so quick. I’d also note that Reid has not banned its use, just expressed an opinion about his level of comfort with it.

    My own view is that Twitter is a smart way of alerting people to articles – banning it would be a wasted opportunity for any media company.

  17. Fitzroyalty
    29 Jun 09
    1:33 pm

  18. Who cares what the ignorant representatives of a dying business with a dead business model think?

  19. Jonathan Nguyen
    29 Jun 09
    2:02 pm

  20. What’s interesting about Reid’s comment is that he says “we”. Does this means that he speaks for News Ltd? If this is the case, how many News people does it take to start tweeting, that it no longer becomes the view of the organisation?

  21. alexander
    29 Jun 09
    2:53 pm

  22. Smart, thought provoking posts from credible journalists contributing to the news feed on Twitter build the brand and perceived reliability/standing of news media among the community.

    They’re good for a newspaper.

    Dim-witted Luddites in management are not, IMHO, necessarily good for a newspaper.

  23. alan jones
    29 Jun 09
    3:41 pm

  24. I’m not surprised Campbell Reid doesn’t get it, but surprised that he was this direct about it and wonder if in fact he might have been quoted slightly out of context. I doubt there’s about to be a pogrom to weed out the tweeters within News.

    More likely they’re just observing it and uncomfortable because they’re wondering whether they’re paying people to do anything other than write news. At the end of the day, News thinks about its relationship with journalists in quite a linear, direct relationship between words in a news story and take-home pay.

    They don’t understand that building a personal brand around a journalist is a cheap way of investing in and owning the production of a future media megastar. Instead of buying-in massively overpaid columnists as The Australian and Daily Tele do, they could be growing them in-house and paying much less for them by allowing them to tweet.

    As Stephen says, nobody’s going to report the news in <200 chars, but they might tweet a link to a news story they’ve just broken and drive a few thousand pageviews to it, which would cost News Ltd almost nothing.

  25. inspiredworlds
    29 Jun 09
    4:01 pm

  26. i can understand why he is uncomfortable, but its no different to CEO’s or executives being cautious about employees tweeting about work related news over twitter. there has to be a sound strategy in place and management buy-in re social media.

    People do like to follow their favourite journalists in print and on twitter – it draws them into reading it. the NY Times (NYT) and the US seem to have a better attitude towards social media in this area. @pogue is the tech writer for the NY Times and has like a million followers, and whenever he tweets and links to NY times articles, he brings in thousands of visitors to the website. newspapers should see this as an opportunity.

    also, NY Times has a social media function on their website called Times People which I’ve been using – its a bit like Digg. I can follow Journalists on the website and they can recommend NYT articles.

  27. Tiphereth Gloria
    29 Jun 09
    4:43 pm

  28. Oh the irony! Of course there’s another article about tweeting media people in the Australian again today http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,,25703556-7582,00.html?from=public_rss

  29. C K Cash
    30 Jun 09
    8:53 am

  30. Telstra sent a directive to all their employees about using social network sites/twitter..etc in relation to misuse in relation to Telstra news/information..etc. I guess if there is an approach to say to employees, it’s okay to use these forms of information/media if you are not spilling the beans?

  31. PaulSwarthout
    30 Jun 09
    2:09 pm

  32. I understand Mr Reid’s concerns. Journalists tweeting news under their own name violates the often presented, often required, no-compete clause of their employment contracts. By publishing news through other vehicles other than their own employers’ news outlets, these journalists are creating a news feed that directly competes with the employers’ news feeds. Further, it alerts true competing news sources to the story, perhaps before they would have otherwise found it.

    Additionally, we do not know whether Mr Reid’s objections lie in the actual tweets or tweets without hyperlinks back to the articles.

  33. inspiredworlds
    30 Jun 09
    2:23 pm

  34. Journalists (and their bosses) should be embracing twitter not discouraging them from using it. Its the new communication medium to distribute news.

    And they wonder why traditional newspapers are losing revenue to online.

  35. nick
    1 Jul 09
    11:01 am

  36. 1. Twitter is the news headline. If its good and relevant, users will link to the opening paragraph and potentially read the whole article.

    2. Twitter is real time – I don’t have to wait whilst the corporate determines which medium it will realese stories through, in order to control information and maximise advertising or circulation revenues

    3. Twitter gives the journo an ability to market their personal brand at no cost and build a bigger following (reach) than they otherwise could do, or afford. The media should support this, even facilitate by having social media managers who do marketing through these channels.

    4. Major news media should read “The Long Tail” and realise that they should produce higher quality category content, more similar to investigative journalism. The 80/20 rule still applies to high quality content, the long tail facilitates speed, not accuracy or quality…just yet.

    5. Twitter, along with all internet tools is empowering society. “The World is Flat” rule, applies to everyone and everything. Scale only wins where scale matters, and in the business of ‘daily news’, media control over what is ‘news’ no longer happens at the corporate editors table. They need to realise, power over what is news has shifted to the hands of the user. I can get the content, I can choose to read it, dig deeper, or move on….to another source, who may be more qualified in the field of forensics, or psychology, or chinese medicine…get the point.

    Which simply supports the recommendation….make your journalists recognised and trusted sources of high quality journalism. They should have twitter accounts that have more followers than Ashton Kutcher and Ellen De Generes, who by the way, reach more followers than the audience of any Autralian news media print, tv or otherwise. They are a media ! And twitter is their distribution channel.

    Society is not changing, people have always created communities of interest that have bonded together to create a voice – ‘special interest groups’. Connecting and creating that voice is much easier and all they use/need is Twitter and a search engine with a forum, not NewsLtd or PBL or Fairfax.

    Someone needs to advise the $600k+ a year execuitves of major news media that the tools of business that used to create barriers to entry DO NOT EXIST. Otherwise they will be recorded in history as the metaphorical captains of the corporate titanics – WAKE UP !!!

  37. John Lacey
    2 Jul 09
    12:15 pm

  38. I confess I was laughing my ass off (as the kids say) when I tweeted a link to this article and within seconds a News Limited employee who was following me on Twitter retweeted it with the word “oops!”

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