BBC tells journalists not to break stories on Twitter

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BBC journalists have been told not to break stories on Twitter, reports The Guardian newspaper.

The new rules reportedly apply to all of the corporation’s correspondents, producers and reporters and forbid them from posting a news story on Twitter before they tell their newsroom colleagues.

According to the Guardian, the new regulations are meant to ensure that news gets uploaded to the renowned organisation’s “newsgathering machine” “without the delay” of a 140 character Tweet.

The news comes fresh on the heels on the announcement that rival news broadcaster Sky News had forbidden its staff from retweeting anything not posted by a fellow employee.

In a statement on the BBC’s editors site, social media editor Chris Hamilton said, however, that this did not mean the corporation views Twitter as potentially destructive:

We prize the increasing value of Twitter, and other social networks, to us (and our audiences) as a platform for our content, a newsgathering tool and a new way of engaging with people. Being quick off the mark with breaking news is essential to that mission.

It also appears that the BBC is not trying to discourage its reporters from live-tweeting events — an important bow in any journalist’s arsenal these days. Hamilton claims that the BBC is fortunate enough “to have a technology that allows our journalists to transmit text simultaneously to our newsroom systems and to their own Twitter accounts.”

Ultimately, the point the BBC is trying to make isn’t that its journalists should be more careful about how they use Twitter in the line of duty. Rather, they seem to be saying something along the lines of “Use the official technology so we can get the story out to the organisation’s official audience and your own personal one”.

It doesn’t seem too restrictive, if the technology works that is.

Perhaps though, there is a certain level of paranoia about journalists building their own brand out of self-interest using the company’s time and resources.

As BBC tech correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones points out, it could also help the organisation avoid the kind of potentially damaging blunders it’s made in the past:

We’ve made plenty of mistakes, from the senior news editor who inadvertently told the world the results of some job interviews, to various journalists who’ve learned the hard way that Twitter is a public place, not somewhere to air views that should be private.

Cellan-Jones admits that the BBC was “very nervous about the whole idea” of Twitter at first. The approach which he suggests, and which the BBC seems to have taken on board, is that “Twitter and other social networks can be brilliant tools for broadcasters as long as they remember that the same rules apply as in any other form of broadcasting.”

For instance, says the seasoned tech reporter, “In a long-running court case, a series of tweets from the reporter who is following proceedings can be an invaluable way of keeping both the newsdesk and the world informed. But when it comes to the verdict, surely the reporter should rush to the live microphone or camera first — even if that means being beaten by a rival tweeter?”

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