- The Washington Times - Friday, October 13, 2017

The New York Times on Friday published its “updated and expanded” social media guidelines, warning newsroom employees against posting biased content that could potentially undermine the newspaper’s credibility.

“We believe that to remain the world’s best news organization, we have to maintain a vibrant presence on social media,” Executive Editor Dean Baquet said in a statement. “But we also need to make sure that we are engaging responsibly on social media, in line with the values of our newsroom.”

The guidelines, which included input from several prominent Times reporters, were developed by Deputy Managing Editor Clifford Levy, Associate Managing Editor for Standards Phil Corbett and Social Media Editor Cynthia Collins. The guidelines apply to everyone in every department of the newsroom.

“If our journalists are perceived as biased or if they engage in editorializing on social media, that can undercut the credibility of the entire newsroom,” the policy stated. “We’ve always made clear that newsroom employees should avoid posting anything on social media that damages our reputation for neutrality and fairness.”

“In social media posts, our journalists must not express partisan opinions, promote political views, endorse candidates, make offensive comments or do anything else that undercuts The Times’s journalistic reputation,” it said. “Our journalists should be especially mindful of appearing to take sides on issues that The Times is seeking to cover objectively.”

The policy also discourages newsroom employees from making customer service complaints on social media and from joining private Facebook groups that may have a partisan bent. It advises newsroom employees to “treat others with respect on social media” and to refrain from responding to “especially aggressive or inconsiderate” criticism. It also advises against newsroom employees blocking or muting social media users for simply criticizing their work, and it asks employees to be transparent and acknowledge publicly when they’ve deleted an erroneous or offensive message.

“The reality is that my Twitter account is a Times account,” Times reporter Nick Confessore said in a statement. “The Times does not control it, but the Times is held accountable for what appears on my feed. Indeed, the casual reader interprets my social accounts as an extension of our digital platforms, for good and ill.”

Chief White House Correspondent Peter Baker said: “It’s important to remember that tweets about President Trump by our reporters and editors are taken as a statement from The New York Times as an institution, even if posted by those who do not cover him. The White House doesn’t make a distinction. In this charged environment, we all need to be in this together.”

Mr. Baquet addressed strengthening The Times’ social media rules Thursday during a discussion at George Washington University, saying it’s important readers understand the paper doesn’t have a “vendetta” against President Trump,” Politico reported.

“I can’t do that if I have 100 people working for the New York Times sending inappropriate tweets,” he said.

“I’ve spent full days policing our social media,” the executive editor said.

• Jessica Chasmar can be reached at jchasmar@washingtontimes.com.

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