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8 February 2012updated 01 Jul 2021 12:14pm

On Sky News, Twitter, and whether we would like journalists to be human

Those who work for news organisations should, within reason, have a free hand in their personal twee

By Steven Baxter

Those who work for news organisations should, within reason, have a free hand in their personal tweets and writings.

Would we like journalists to be human? That’s the question we should ask about the rules slapped on Sky hacks, forbidding them from retweeting other news sites or straying off their own specialisms.

Do we want real people, with opinions and personalities, to be tweeting, or would we prefer a Borg-like newsbot collective? It’ll be a pretty grey old world if we settle for the latter option. If you want journos to be frightened, feeble characters mimsying around corporate gags and guidelines, be my guest. But good luck when you try and claim your business is all about free speech.

Journos are, after all, (mainly) people. They are often (relatively) good with words and (sometimes) like to read other people’s stuff — if that stuff is good they like to pass around examples of good stories and good writing. That’s not really a corporate crime; it’s just good manners and being professional.

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Sure, human beings have failings. Sometimes they say or do daft things; sometimes they make a mess of it; sometimes they link to things or retweet things that are a bit iffy. But so what? Does it really reflect so badly on the employer?

It’s embarrassing for everyone involved when someone does a “bad” tweet and their opponents pile in to draw attention to it. That kind of pack mentality around people who supposedly have transgressed is a feeble thing, and often makes those complaining look a lot worse than those at whom they’re pointing their fingers.

We shouldn’t prevent people who work for news organisations having a free hand, within reason, in their personal tweets and writings. After all, they really are people, just like you and me. Honest.

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