Writing on the Poynter Institute site, New York Times' assistant managing editor Craig Whitney, the gent who oversees their journalistic standards, has laid down the ethical law for its reporters ... because the NY Times thinks they won't have ethics if they don't write a code for them. Here is the short version:
1) Politics. Times reporters shouldn't put their political affiliation in their profiles. It will just make the token Republican at the newspaper feel even more isolated.
2) Quality. Reporters shouldn't write anything on a social media site they wouldn't write in The Times - plus, making a point in 140 characters or less just costs them money anyway.
3) Neutrality. They shouldn't friend Barack Obama on Facebook unless they at least make a pretense of friending John McCain too.
and the funniest one ...
4) Minors. Before asking a minor about his or her private life, they should consult the Standards Editor.
Now, I can understand why the Times would be concerned about the political views of its journalists being outed. You know they're Democrats, I know they're Democrats, but the Times thinks no one else knows ... and they don't want them to know. I am not sure why, it isn't like Republicans are subscribing to the Times.
But they are losing a ton of money so maybe they think if reporters don't write on Twitter about how earmarks and signing statements were wrong for Bush but they are right for Obama, Republicans (you know who Republicans are - they pay to read the Wall Street Journal) will flock to them.
Maybe throwing out the proof of progressive voter registration for reporters will also bring the Times back as a paper that actually counts but, no, controlling the private conduct of their employees - who, we assume, wrote with some concern about George Bush censoring the political opinions of his employees - seems to be the road they chose.
Even if Times reporters are not impartial, they must pretend to be. So they can't put anything on their Facebook profile that gives it away or join any groups.
The Times is spinning this that they have to lay out standards because New Media is more important to them than ever - yes, as if the misused scourge of 'anonymous sources' hasn't already killed journalism for the last 35 years, they want to make it worse by using Friendster contacts as a source.
As the first large media publisher to do so, there is speculation that this may have a ripple effect; you know, how airlines all raise fees when one does?
Because I know you are all concerned about this reaching our hallowed community, I am going to come right out and address this before rumors get started.
1) Politics. No one here cares what your political affiliation so put it anywhere you want. Most of you are in academia so if you aren't 80% Democrats, I will eat a Scientific Blogging hat. But the audience is probably a lot more politically balanced and that's because we just write good stuff and leave the cultural proselytizing to science sites who dig that sort of thing. The audience likes your individuality and they like that we don't have an agenda. There's room for both because we're all smart people.
2) Quality. I am just the opposite of them on this one. I don't think you should put anything here you would put in the Times. Honestly, I'd sign off on a 3-day waiting period and a background check for guns tomorrow if they would agree to a 3-day waiting period and a fact check on things they put on the Times Science section.
3) Neutrality. I hope you're not impartial. This is science. You're supposed to be right.
4) Minors. Hold on, I am still laughing, so I guess I don't have to address this. If some 12 year old has a secret to some mystery of nature you never thought of, he deserves that Nobel prize so go ahead and interview him. We'll even send him a t-shirt.
I hope that clears up any questions about our lack of a New Media policy. But should there be other non-issues I forgot to not address because you are all adults, please let me know and I will be sure to not formalize any unnecessary non-clarifications.