New Delhi: In a note sent to its employees on Thursday, The Hindu urged its journalists to exercise restraint while tweeting or sharing news stories from other competing news publications, a move obviously aimed at ensuring they do not contribute to the traffic of these sites in any way. A copy of the note sent by managing editor P. Jacob and senior managing editor V. Jayanth has been reviewed by Mint.

“...projecting and commenting on—adversely or otherwise—the contents of other, especially competing, publications will be in poor form and is preferably avoided. We need particularly to ensure that in our enthusiasm and urge to participate in an on-line discussion or debate, we do not end up doing a favour to the competition.," stated the note circulated by resident editors, chiefs of bureaus and city editors to all employees working at Kasturi and Sons Ltd, the publisher of the newspaper.

The note added that as the company works on a broader social media policy for the organization, these aspects may be noted for “immediate adoption".

It also remarked on the social media policies of other media organizations. “It may be noted that other media organizations—print, online and visual—do not encourage their journalists to tweet links from competitors."

N. Ravi, editor-in-chief of The Hindu, maintained that these guidelines were in line with international standards.

“This is in line with the social media policies of other international media organizations like The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Reuters among others, so there in nothing out of line here. This is only a preliminary step; we are setting up a larger framework of guidelines for the organization," said Ravi.

The Wall Street Journal actually doesn’t prohibit its reporters from sharing or retweeting stories by journalists in other media organizations. Mint couldn’t immediately ascertain whether The New York Times has such a policy, but the little that has been written about NYT’s social media policy seems to suggest that, like Mint’s and The Wall Street Journal’s, it is largely generic and aimed at ensuring that journalists do not show bias or aren’t perceived to be showing bias through their social media activity.

“It reflects a very outdated view of the role of a trusted media brand for audiences in this digital, socially-networked era," said Raju Narisetti, senior vice-president, strategy, at News Corp., publisher of the The Wall Street Journal.

“While the same high standards and codes of conduct that govern your newsroom should be applied to your journalists tweeting and retweeting, using the brand to help readers deal with the avalanche of information, and not just your own writing, is a key role for newsrooms," said Narisetti, founding editor of Mint.

Mint’s own editorial code of conduct doesn’t prohibit reporters and editors from tweeting about or sharing stories from other media organizations.

“Staff should always act in a transparent manner when compiling or altering online sources of information. Employees should not engage in activities on the Internet, which might bring Mint into disrepute... They should not post derogatory or offensive comments on the Internet. If an employee is recognized to be an employee of Mint (either via byline or any other way), their personal blog/Twitter account/online profiles should include the following disclaimer—the views expressed herein are the author’s own, and do not reflect the opinions of Mint in any way," are the general guidelines of Mint’s social media policy.

Media critic Sevanti Ninan said about The Hindu’s directive: “An advisory such as this is saying that a journalist should have no freedom to be an independent thinking individual, responding in a private capacity to articles disseminated on social media."

She added: “It is not unprecedented because media organizations abroad do not, for instance, encourage their journalists to express political preferences on social media, since they are identified in the public mind with a specific media outlet. But it is definitely a trend to be resisted. Brand loyalty cannot be allowed to subsume one’s personal online participation."

Kasturi and Sons competes with HT Media Ltd, publisher of the Hindustan Times and Mint, in some markets.

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