Over at the Washington Post it appears that one of their editors got himself into a pickle when he posted his opinion to friends and associates on Twitter. The Tweets covered some of the political hot topics that currently are in the news, including being covered by the Washington Post. So now the newspaper has some strict guidelines that their people must follow in order to comply with what the Washington Post believes are ethical. This includes, but not required, terminating a Twitter account if needed.
According to the Washington Post article it also states the following facts:
As tweets on Twitter, they’re pretty innocuous.
“We can incur all sorts of federal deficits for wars and what not,” read a recent one. “But we have to promise not to increase it by $1 for healthcare reform? Sad.”
Then, from this week: “Sen Byrd (91) in hospital after he falls from ‘standing up too quickly.” How about term limits. Or retirement age. Or commonsense to prevail.”
What makes these tweets significant is that they were written by Raju Narisetti, one of The Post’s top editors. As one of two managing editors, he’s responsible for The Post’s features content and oversees its Web site. But he also sits in on news meetings and occasionally gets involved in “hard” news.
Narisetti said today he now realizes that his tweets, although intended for a private audience of about 90 friends and associates, were unwise.
They were “personal” observations, he said. “But I also realize that… seeing that the managing editor of The Post is weighing in on this, it’s a clear perception problem.”
He has closed his Twitter account.
In today’s hyper-sensitive political environment, Narisetti’s tweets could be seen as one of The Post’s top editors taking sides on the question of whether a health-care reform plan must be budget neutral. On Byrd, his comments could be construed as favoring term limits or mandatory retirement for aging lawmakers. Many readers already view The Post with suspicion and believe that the personal views of its reporters and editors influence the coverage. The tweets could provide ammunition.
Narisetti’s decision to stop posting coincides with today’s release of new Post newsroom guidelines for using Facebook, Twitter and other online social networks.
What makes this interesting is that one could take the opinion that the editor and other employees of the Washington Post do not have the right to express an opinion and may violate their 1st amendment right to free speech. Or does it? Does the newspaper have the legal right to censor their employees? What do you think?