Sky News longs for Victorian internet, applies dark age social policy

February 7, 2012

In an attempt to shoehorn the social media genie back into the bottle, Sky News has told its reporters they cannot retweet non-Sky sources and must not stray from the topic area or beat that they cover when posting tweets on their Twitter accounts. Not only does this make for a staid and boring feed, but it also puts Sky News reporters at a significant competitive disadvantage to places like Reuters, where we have reporters verifying and tweeting out sources of news from all over the web and from many different news outlets.

Their own boss @RupertMudoch doesn’t even follow these new rules, he frequently references news organizations outside of his own, as @RossNeumann points out. The idea here at Reuters when it comes to social media is to be the beacon for all news, which makes us the go-to source, no matter what the source may be, after being put through our own filters of verification. I’ve written before about how important it is for my own company, Reuters, to be careful if they try to tread in these same waters.

There are occasions where we may share a bit of news or simply cite what other folks on Twitter are saying as a retweet, which in Twitter parlance is an act of quoting someone. It doesn’t imply an endorsement or even an acknowledgement that it is a statement of fact. It is an act of stating, “look here at what this person is saying.”

Sky should take care and make sure that their journalists are not spreading lies and misinformation. This is the first rule of journalism — but that is not what these policies are about and don’t help to enforce. Sky News Digital News Editor Neal Mann, who goes by @fieldproducer on Twitter, is someone I consider a far-off friend, someone I was lucky enough to meet recently and have known over Twitter for some time. We also share many other friends who met Neal through Twitter because he’s become such a trusted and reliable source of news in many different areas and topics. So many people appreciate Neal that they’ve even created a hashtag to protest the new rules that Sky has put into place: #savefieldproducer.

These new rules will hamstring Neal and make it difficult, if not impossible, for him to continue to do what he did to garner so much appreciation from people like me. I suspect Sky will come to their senses and realize the error of their ways. If not, they’re going to lose one of their best ambassadors in Neal, and I would suspect many people working at Sky may wonder if they’re working for an organization that is writing policies that will drive them into obsolescence.

For another good take on this, check out Mathew Ingram’s post for Gigaom, and Cory Bergman for

Elana Zak did a nice job putting together a Storify of the reaction to this news on social media.

Update 2/8: BBC tells their journalists not to break news on Twitter, but now claims, that’s not entirely accurate. I Storify’d what BBC had to say about their new policy here.

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