Should reporters be banned from tweeting?
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Question: Should reporters be banned from tweeting?

First, let's define what a reporter is: He or she is not a pundit, not an opinion person. Nor is a reporter a radio talk show host or political operative serving as a contributor on a cable news network near you.

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Instead, these are journalists whose mission is to report facts without agenda or prejudice. And until Twitter was introduced into our lives as a megaphone for anyone to broadcast their thoughts at a moment’s notice, reporters weren't really able to share their feelings about a particular policy or political figure without doing so in their stories, which are subjected to the watchful eye of editors.

 

There are exceptions to this rule in the form of "hybrids." These are folks who are reporters but also write or verbalize opinion as well. Hybrids are becoming increasingly common in today's media world with the proliferation of opinion journalism.

In the print world, the rule is clear: If offering an opinion, make sure the publication labels it as such, to avoid any misconception.

In this case, you're obviously reading an opinion piece, as I regularly write opinion content for The Hill in addition to doing media reporting, thereby making me a hybrid. Other media reporters, from Howard Kurtz to Erik Wemple to Brian Stelter, do the same.

But for those serving solely as reporters, 2016 has proven to showcase many of the aforementioned "feelings" of reporters, seemingly everywhere without a filter or editor to prevent them from being shared.

In an interview with New York Times public editor Liz Spayd on Friday, Fox's Tucker Carlson asked what she thought of certain senior Times political reporters tweeting out highly partisan perspectives regarding President-elect Donald TrumpDonald TrumpTrump cheers on Senate GOP ahead of 'skinny' ObamaCare repeal vote Live Coverage: Senate votes down 'skinny' ObamaCare repeal Pete King defends ‘unorthodox’ Scaramucci after attacks on Priebus MORE.

Before we get to Spayd's candid answer, here are some examples of NYT reporters jumping to the opinion side of the house via social media:

When shown the tweets, Spayd said they were “over the line” and “some kind of a consequence" should have been reserved for the reporters who wrote them.

"I think that's outrageous,” Spayd also said. “I think that that should not be. They shouldn't be tweeted and they shouldn't — and it does concern me that that would be.” 

Of course, different publications may have different protocols and standards when it comes to reporter conduct. Large, establishment media outlets such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, CNN, The Hill, Politico, etc., need to be more stringent considering the size of readership and influence they wield.

Other publications — from The Daily Caller to Mother Jones to Salon to National Review to The Huffington Post — may not be as concerned about drawing a hard line in the sand when it comes to their reporters sharing opinions, because those tend to get the most clicks on a daily basis.

So what's the solution here?

For establishment outlets, if a reporter is seen tweeting out the kind of partisan opinion we see not only at the Times but pretty much everywhere with few exceptions, their Twitter account should be suspended indefinitely.

If it happens again, the reporter him or herself should be suspended.

Third time, you're out.

If you sign up to be a reporter, tough: that's part of the deal. 

No bias.

No cheerleading.

None of the all-too-apparent snark against a person or policy you don't particularly like.

For other outlets that tend to play to a particular audience based on ideology (HuffPo, Daily Caller, Salon, National Review), simply state what the rules are — relaxed, stringent, non-existent — to your reporters in a public memo in the name of full transparency.

We were told there would be much soul-searching following an election when trust in media plummeted even further than the historic lows recorded going into the election.

Part of the reason has been the reporters who either don't have the discipline or have too big an ego to contain their opinions in the name of professionalism.

Talk is cheap. Let's finally see some action to make the Fourth Estate credible again.

 

Concha is a media reporter for The Hill.


The views of Contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.