There Should Be No Limit For Journalists on Twitter

November 13th, 2012 by Matt Friedman

Every so often, there’s a PR decision by an organization that, despite being made by professionals who otherwise know what they’re doing, that, on the surface, just doesn’t make any sense.

That’s how the Twitter policy by the University of Washington, made public today, strikes. The University has instructed journalists to limit the number of live tweets they send while covering UW events.

We have reached an era where live tweeting is essentially live news coverage. While, from the PR vantage point, it can be frustrating because journalists blend instant commentary (and often snark) with real-time reporting, we must respect Twitter posts as a bona fide news platform because that is how the our audiences – the media and the public – audience see it.

There dos not appear to be a UW policy that otherwise restricts news coverage. It would be hard to believe that the University would try to dictate how news is reported in traditional platforms. It’s tough to imagine a restriction on how many newspaper stories a reporter could write or TV packages a station could put together.

Years ago, when I was reporting for radio, I often covered the Detroit Tigers. Because a competing station paid for and maintained play-by-play rights, I was restricted from calling live action on the field during a game. But, I could still report live from the ballpark as often as the station wanted me to, providing facts and the game story to the audience. That restriction made reasonable sense. But restricting tweets to an arbitrary number does not, especially in the age of the multi-screen experience with so many fans watching TV while following social media at the same time.

Here, we are actually doing the opposite with our clients. We handle PR for many events and are have taken steps, including advising our clients to provide workspace and WI-FI access when possible, recognizing that journalists will live tweet the events. While we maintain the right to restricted credential access, once a credential is granted, event coverage is fair game, regardless of platform.

It’s impossible to imagine anyone choosing not to attend an event, particularly a major sports event, to stay home and read live tweets instead. In fact, we have found that live tweeting is good for brand engagement and awareness. In short, it’s good PR.

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