Your tweets, their brand name

The New York Times’ Jerusalem bureau chief Jodi Rudoren has drawn criticism for what she’s posted on Twitter, most recently during the Gaza conflict. Now, the Times has assigned an editor to review her tweets.

Rudoren calls the move “constructive and cautious,” though Poytner reports that at least one journalist has dismissed the decision as a misguided attempt to maintain journalistic objectivity.

It makes me wonder whether the common Twitter bio disclaimers that say “RTs don’t equal endorsements” — or Rudoren’s version, “Tweets mean hey, look at this, nothing more” — actually mean anything in practice. Journalists are still held accountable for what they tweet, even if it’s just a link to a news article, tweeted without commentary.

The Times’ public editor Margaret Sullivan wrote about Rudoren’s tweets in a blog post yesterday, finally settling on this key question:

Do Ms. Rudoren’s personal musings, as they have seeped out in unfiltered social media posts (and, notably, have been criticized from both the right and the left), make her an unwise choice for this crucially important job?

Sullivan concludes that since Rudoren’s reporting is “exemplary,” her tweets don’t disqualify her for the job.

We all know that we’re supposed to be careful about what we post online, but it seems that journalists, of all people, don’t actually have the luxury of posting “personal musings.” That’s one of the self-imposed restrictions that comes with the privilege of being a journalist.

It seems extreme to assign an editor to a journalist’s Twitter to manage risk, but I expect that we’ll see more of it, particularly with journalists tweeting about sensitive topics. This is where the journalist’s “personal brand” and professional brand collide.

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