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February 2, 2010

Journalists on Twitter - should they post just news?

Somebody was criticizing @jaketapper, a reporter for ABC News (and one of the best, I think) for posting stuff about Jersey Shore and other pop culture items along with his news tweets.  I'm not going to give the woman the publicity of pointing you to her, but if you go to Jake's feed, you'll see her.

Here's one of her tweets:

"Wonder if I should take @jaketapper seriously w tweets about jerseyshore followed by Haiti. Really?"

I'm interested in all of your opinions, but here's mine.  I actually like it, and prefer it as well.  Here's why.
First of all, let me say this right off the bat.  I'm not a big fan of journalists, because too many of them wear their political beliefs on their sleeves, and their reporting becomes editorial instead (which is why I don't have much of a problem with actual opinion journalists, like those at National Review).  Jake Tapper is one of the best not just because of his reporting skills, but also because he's fair.  I can honestly tell you that I have no idea what his political beliefs are.  And I like it that way.

Now, on to the controversy.  While Twitter can be a valuable place to find news, that's not the end-all and be-all of what it's for.  When I follow somebody on Twitter, I want to get an insight into who they are.  I want to see them have a little fun and let loose.  I don't want them to be super-serious all the time.  And that includes any news people I follow.

Why would posting about Jersey Shore harm Tapper's credibility?  I would seriously question his taste, but not his credibility.  Why should journalists be barred from treating Twitter like everybody else does?  During the summer, I was re-tweeting stuff regarding the violence in Iran with wild abandon, doing what I could to spread the word.  But that didn't stop me from also griping about the commercials running on Fox News at the time.  And if Dany Heatley had been traded to the Canucks, the Iran stuff wouldn't have stopped me from tweeting about Heatley.  So why should reporters be barred from doing the same?

Personally, I think this makes journalists seem more human, more accessible.  It shows that they're not mindless automatons, just regurgitating the story.  I like Tapper's reporting anyway.  I like him even more because of the way he tweets.

But seriously, Mr. Tapper.  Jersey Shore?  (shakes head)

Also, I want to make clear that what I've said applies to reporters.  Not network accounts.  I don't want personal tweets coming from ABC News or CNN or FoxNews.  Lauren Sivan, who works at Fox News?  Wonderful.  But not from the main Fox account.

Anyway, I'd love to know what you think.  Do you think journalists should "stick to the facts" in their tweets?  Or should they broaden their horizons?


  1. I think the issue has more to do with "personal" stuff coming from a "professional" twitter account, rather than the actual content covered. If Tapper's Twitter is simply a personal microblog where he posts stuff he cares about, that's fine. But if he's marketing himself there as a journalist rather than just a normal guy, that's when he needs to start considering whether everything he tweets is appropriate to the image he's selling.

    I don't know anything about any of these people, but that's my two cents.

  2. Fair enough, Jenn, though I don't really agree. Otherwise, any professional on Twitter would have to have two accounts, and that seems really pointless to me.

    For example, Major Garrett of Fox News did some wonderful postings of pictures he took while traveling with the President to Copenhagen and Asia. If he was restricted to just straight news reporting, that wouldn't have been appropriate either.

    Thanks for the intelligent comment, though, as always. :)

  3. I agree. If the account is a personal one then tweeting about non-news related things is okay in my books. Of course as you said, I wouldn't want to get personal tweets from network accounts...that would just be odd.


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