In defence of Sky News’ re-Tweeting ban


by Sunny Hundal    
8:30 am - February 8th 2012

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The Guardian reported yesterday that Sky News has told its journalists not to re-tweet information from non-Sky Twitter users. That immediately sparked a barrage of criticism from Reuters, Charlie Beckett, GigaOM and lots of people on Twitter.

But from a political perspective I can see why they’re doing it. I want to briefly address this because I think it raises a broader point.

News curation
Anthony De Rosa at Reuters makes this important point:

The idea here at Reuters when it comes to social media is to be the beacon for all news, which makes us the go-to source, no matter what the source may be, after being put through our own filters of verification.

Agreed – but I think there’s an assumption here that people will only follow Reuters for their news and want a wide spectrum of news from that source. I don’t think that model of news is sustainable for long.

On Twitter and on Liberal Conspiracy I sometimes echo others on news or opinion if I find it significant, but rarely see the point in replicating others. If LabourList and/or The Staggers blog have already posted something I’m more likely to link than post the same content. If someone at Guardian CIF has taken a highly visible position on an issue, I usually pass on similar comment pieces. I know other left-wing bloggers take a similar approach.

Newspapers still cling to an era when they ran similar content on the basis that readers will only buy one newspaper. But most people surf at least 2-5 websites of a particular genre, including news. I check about 10 every day, in addition to news aggregators and news tweets.

Sooner or later newspapers and broadcasters with shrinking budgets will have to start specialising their online content. So I don’t think Sky News will lose much by not having its journalists act as curators for other content.

Reputation problem
The ban on RTs also makes sense if you acknowledge their worry that disputed links or info by their journalists could reflect on Sky News itself.

Put this in a political context. The other day Matt Zarb-Cousin got ambushed by the media for calling the Queen a scrounger, even though his Twitter biog says his opinions do not reflect his boss.

And didn’t most people think the Tory Cllr criticising disabled protesters reflected on the Conservative party?

The common Twitter disclaimer: ‘opinions are mine alone, not those of my employer‘ now offers little protection, ironically as journalists themselves have jumped on controversial tweets to get at employers (MZ-B a case in point).

Is it any surprise editors at Sky News feel that a RT not meant as an endorsement could be interpreted in that way anyway? After all, people still attack me for publishing editorials on LC even if I disagree with those views. Once a Twitter mob gets going it’s very difficult to calm it down.

Of course this also implies Sky News editors don’t want to give their own journalists too much leeway in using their judgement. But all the broadcasters have hefty rule books for journalists (I expect the BBC will follow Sky), so this isn’t that surprising.


Disclaimer – I’ve not had contact with a Sky News editor or journalist over this blog-post.

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About the author
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Reader comments


It’s a very well made point Sunny. Must admit yesterday I was in the ‘this is outrageous’ camp. But having read your post and thought about my own twitter habits it makes sense. You can’t get away from the fact that a re-tweet, despite any disclaimer, may look like an endorsement. It’s just the way it works! Hence all my recent re-tweets were pictures of snowmen in various London parks! No one can chastise me for that.

Just to clarify – I don’t think it’s fair to call it a ‘ban’. They are just asking staff to check with the desk before they retweet.
However, this has the danger of stopping journalists from retweeting at all – no-one wants to check each tweet – and that’s silly.

Hence all my recent re-tweets were pictures of snowmen in various London parks! No one can chastise me for that.

This is the internet – someone will find that offensive for some reason. Which is I suppose the point that Sunny ultimately is heading for – if you are going to attract flack for what you post, you might as well be responsible for the content yourself.

Nice article. For any news organisation – and especially a commercial one – the benefits of being part of the wider conversation have to outweight the risks of reputational harm and dilution of one’s own message.

If Sky, an entirely independent organisation, decides the benfits don’t outweigh the costs – it is up to them to go their own way.

This may prove short-sighted as it focuses on very specific risks and perhaps under-values the worth of being part of the wider news conversation that Twitter helps to form. But it may not. And that’s for the editor to guess at.

Ther is a great parody twitter account in the name of …… Not Kay Burley.

Priceless.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Liberal Conspiracy

    In defence of Sky News' re-Tweeting ban http://t.co/2DDyGg87

  2. Jack Parsons

    In defence of Sky News' re-Tweeting ban http://t.co/2DDyGg87

  3. Jason Brickley

    In defence of Sky News’ re-Tweeting ban http://t.co/tD6Rz8fR

  4. sunny hundal

    I write in defence of Sky News’ re-Tweeting ban on journalists http://t.co/hu2pF9Os

  5. Patron Press - #P2

    #UK : In defence of Sky News ’ re-Tweeting ban http://t.co/V4hwuxD9

  6. Jem Stone

    Two journalists defend Sky News new social media policy @sunny_hundal http://t.co/ShaB9OXf & @katebevan http://t.co/WRd2r8Cl

  7. Mohammed Ansar

    Interesting article from @sunny_hundal supports BRANDISING tweets and making them 'corporate'. Good for his brands too? http://t.co/PWhoxoL2

  8. Daniel Bentley

    Why defend old models Sunny? RT @sunny_hundal I write in defence of Sky News’ re-Tweeting ban on journalists http://t.co/Jkc5thiq

  9. BBC Internet blog

    Two journalists defend Sky News new social media policy @sunny_hundal http://t.co/ShaB9OXf & @katebevan http://t.co/WRd2r8Cl

  10. Martin Bagot

    Interesting blog post on @SkyNews banning all journalists from RTing any non-Sky content – http://t.co/OQKR6fa0 @sunny_hundal

  11. Mick Norman

    Two journalists defend Sky News new social media policy @sunny_hundal http://t.co/ShaB9OXf & @katebevan http://t.co/WRd2r8Cl

  12. LaurenceVick

    Interesting blog post on @SkyNews banning all journalists from RTing any non-Sky content – http://t.co/OQKR6fa0 @sunny_hundal

  13. Paul Nezandonyi

    RT @libcon: In defence of Sky News' re-Tweeting ban http://t.co/RdyvmRol

  14. leftlinks

    Liberal Conspiracy – In defence of Sky News’ re-Tweeting ban http://t.co/sPZFINlL

  15. Frankie Taggart

    @sunny_hundal defends Sky over RTs policy (nb – this is neither an endorsement or an unendorsement of his post) http://t.co/XnbzEo5O

  16. sunny hundal

    Two points in defence of Sky News’ re-Tweeting ban, on news aggregation and reputations http://t.co/hu2pF9Os

  17. James Grant

    Sky News clamps down on Twitter use http://t.co/3J4ME09R via @guardian / In defence of Sky's retweeting ban http://t.co/YRsPmxJz via @libcon

  18. Asam Shah

    This actually makes sense. 'In defence of Sky News’ re-Tweeting ban': http://t.co/0KDcOxMc via @sunny_hundal

  19. FreestyleInteractive

    Two journalists defend Sky News new social media policy @sunny_hundal http://t.co/ShaB9OXf & @katebevan http://t.co/WRd2r8Cl

  20. Sky News Twitter restrictions – where do you stand? | Editors' Blog | Journalism.co.uk

    [...] move, does, however have some supporters. Sunny Hundal, on the Liberal Conspiracy blog, writes: The ban on RTs makes sense if you acknowledge their worry that disputed links or info by [...]

  21. Sky News Twitter restrictions – where do you stand? | Staffroom Secrets

    [...] move, does, however have some supporters. Sunny Hundal, on the Liberal Conspiracy blog, writes: The ban on RTs makes sense if you acknowledge their worry that disputed links or info by [...]

  22. Bilal Randeree

    RT @sunny_hundal: I write in defence of Sky News’ re-Tweeting ban on journalists http://t.co/yu2PhbZI

  23. sunny hundal

    Two journalists defend Sky News new social media policy @sunny_hundal http://t.co/ShaB9OXf & @katebevan http://t.co/WRd2r8Cl

  24. sunny hundal

    In case you missed it *cough* > Me writing in defence of Sky News tweet ban/guidelines http://t.co/uuohLjUj

  25. Oasis Caretaker

    In case you missed it *cough* > Me writing in defence of Sky News tweet ban/guidelines http://t.co/uuohLjUj

  26. nofrills

    Sky News??????????????????????????????????????????????"??"????????????????????????????????????????????? / “In defence…” http://t.co/UvRZ2cw5

  27. moca_matari

    Sky News??????????????????????????????????????????????"??"????????????????????????????????????????????? / “In defence…” http://t.co/UvRZ2cw5

  28. MervynDinnen

    In defence of Sky News Twitter guidelines http://t.co/ls3cToqh (via @sunny_hundal )

  29. andrew

    In defence of Sky News' re-Tweeting ban | Liberal Conspiracy: On Twitter and on Liberal Conspiracy I sometimes e… http://t.co/7IWeuPXG

  30. ???????

    Sky News??????????????????????????????????????????????"??"????????????????????????????????????????????? / “In defence…” http://t.co/UvRZ2cw5

  31. Sky News legt Twittergebruik redacteuren aan banden « herwinthole.nl – webjournalist @ Wegener nieuwssites webjournalist @ Wegener nieuwssites & student Journalistiek @ Rijksuniversiteit Groningen

    [...] Sunny Hundal verdedigt het verbod van Sky op retweets. [...]





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