The New York Times wants its staffers to ease up on their Twitter usage, according to a memo sent Thursday from executive editor Dean Baquet to all staffers.
“For some time, I’ve been hearing serious concerns from newsroom colleagues about the challenges that Twitter presents,” began Baquet’s note, which The Daily Beast obtained and reviewed. “We can rely too much on Twitter as a reporting or feedback tool—which is especially harmful to our journalism when our feeds become echo chambers. We can be overly focused on how Twitter will react to our work, to the detriment of our mission and independence. We can make off-the-cuff responses that damage our journalistic reputations. And for too many of you, your experience of Twitter is shaped by harassment and attacks.”
The memo, which was first reported by Insider’s Steven Perlberg, continued: “It’s clear we need to reset our stance on Twitter for the newsroom. So we’re making some changes.”
Among the social-media policy changes, Baquet announced that “maintaining a presence on Twitter and other social media is now purely optional for Times journalists.” He wrote that many staffers want to “step away” from tweeting and that the paper will “encourage you to meaningfully reduce how much time you’re spending on the platform.”
Baquet also announced an in-house team dedicated to supporting Times journalists who fall victim to social-media threats and harassment. “We take these attacks extremely seriously, and we know just how much this abuse affects our colleagues’ well-being, sense of safety and ability to do their jobs.”
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That policy is ostensibly a response to criticism from reporters, most notably former Times scribe Taylor Lorenz, over the paper’s handling of online harassment and social-media use of its journalists.
The Times editor also went out of his way to warn against “tweets or subtweets that attack, criticize or undermine the work of your colleagues,” adding that management will now “pay close attention to how all Times journalists use social media to ensure it is in line with our social media guidelines.”
Speaking of Lorenz: After Baquet’s memo leaked, the now-Washington Post tech columnist took to Twitter to publicly bash her former employer’s new social-media policy in a series of posts. “[I]t’s very disappointing and contradictory to see,” she wrote. “This is not how a newsroom should approach the internet or social media. It only deepens the NYT’s vulnerability to bad faith attacks.”
The paper’s social-media “reset” come as Times journalists told The Daily Beast that the paper’s managers have recently changed their attitude toward Twitter, arguably the most popular app for journalists looking to share their work, get attention from other publications, and directly engage with their readers—or their harshest critics.
“Twitter is not our editor” is a phrase now being used by members of the masthead, multiple staffers told The Daily Beast. Other staffers lamented that Twitter has become less useful to reporters as it has “gradually sunk” into often just being a “disingenuous… baying mob.”