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'Break news on your website, not on Twitter'

The American Society of News Editors (ASNE) has issued a social media guide for newspapers with lots of good recommendations, but this one stands out: “Break news on your website, not on Twitter.” Why? Here’s the key part of the explanation from the “10 Best Practices for Social Media” report (.pdf):

In a news climate that values speed, there are great temptations and added incentives to break news on Twitter or Facebook instead of waiting for it to move through the editorial pipeline. This undercuts one of the main values of social media for news organizations, which is to drive traffic and increase the reach of high-quality journalism. Competitors have been known to snap up scoops first hinted at on Twitter or to accelerate the publication of a story if it becomes clear on Twitter that someone at another outlet is moving forward with a similar story….

…It’s a good policy to tell employees they should include links whenever possible to a story on their employer’s site. This way it goes through an editor and increases traffic….

As an example, the ASNE points to this Business Insider story which asked, “Why do sports reporters give away their scoops on Twitter?” It showed several examples of sports reporters posting breaking news without links back to their own site — giving fast-footed competitors the ability to publish at the same time.

I can see ASNE’s point, but the recommendation is more destructive than helpful for a couple reasons. First, as a news organization in a new distributed world, everything shouldn’t be about driving traffic to yourself — it should be about providing the best possible news service on any platform. And second, the idea that reporters must always work through their editors — even though social media allows reporters (and the public) to self-publish — is increasingly outdated. Editors still play an important role, but for most breaking news stories, reporters should be empowered to report what they see and hear.

In my role at @breakingnews and BreakingNews.com, we’ve seen plenty of recent examples from the Middle East and North Africa, with network TV correspondents — like @richardengelnbc and @bencnn — posting a steady stream of breaking news updates that were not available elsewhere.

My recommendation would be for reporters to quickly tip their newsrooms first and tweet second — without waiting for the story to appear on the site. First is first, regardless of where it’s posted. Then follow up with a tweet with a link when the story is posted. (And post it FAST. Just hammer out a couple lines and keep updating it as you go.) News is a process, not a finished product.

What do you think? Agree/disagree? (Thanks @tvamy for the tip!)

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