Should journos have their Twitter profiles taken from them if they change job?

So The ABC’s new comment and analysis site The Drum is up and running.

And it’s off to a speedy start – not least because editor Jonathan Green was able to get the message out to his 1800 followers on Twitter this morning, while Annabel Crabb was able to do the same with her 7,700 followers.

Of course, these were profiles built up during time with their previous employers – Green as editor of Crikey and Crabb as columnist in the Sydney Morning Herald.

But is it fair to their old employers that the ABC’s The Drum has enjoyed that immediate traffic leg-up based on their old roles? After all, someone else was paying them to do it.

There’s an argument both ways. You could view it in the same way as when a reporter changes newspaper, they’ll take their contacts book with them. I’ve now got business cards and contacts books stretching back 20 years. I’m not sure what use the private phone number for Farnborough ambulance station in the UK would be for me now, but I’ve still got it somewhere.

But on the other hand, Twitter is also a marketing tool . It would be interesting to hear a legal argument that this list of followers is more akin to an email database and belongs to the employer.

Crabb has such a high following not just on her own account, but because of the profile Fairfax provided her with.

I wonder how long it is before media companies start including a clause in contracts that they own a Twitter profile if a journalist tweets during their day job. Just as they own the content that a journo creates.

At some point this issue will, I’m sure, be tested in court.

If it turns out that journos do own their Twitter identity, then you could see the number of your followers become a point of negotiation, either for a pay rise, or for a bigger salary elsewhere.

Tim Burrowes

Update: There’s also a good take from Margaret Simons of Crikey on the topic here



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