Is A Retweet Considered An Endorsment?

Short answer? No.

Longer answer? Sometimes it can be hard to tell.

The default option to retweet using Twitter via the web interface does not offer an opportunity to add context or comments to the tweet. You get to retweet the comment as is, that is your only option. It’s what is referred to as a naked retweet.

The naked retweet was debated last year when the Associated Press issued standards for retweeting by journalists.

the AP rules say reporters should write a lead-in to the material. Instead of simply retweeting a controversial quote from Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich, for example, the reporter should preface the retweet with “Gingrich shares view on taxes: RT @newtgingrich…”

“A naked retweet..can certainly suggest that the AP staffer was endorsing that opinion,” Kent says. “Not everyone would think that, but some people would.”
[The Naked Retweet Dilemma - American Journalism Review]

In a recent design change, Twitter added the original author’s name and avatar to the timeline when something has been retweeted. It made clear the distinction that the tweet was the original work of someone else.

I agree with the notion that context for retweets is a good thing to add, but if Twitter does not include that functionality how can we expect all to add it? 3rd party apps like Tweetbot do allow for quoting tweets, and the Twitter desktop app, TweetDeck, allows for this functionality but it is not available on the web interface. If you want to add context, you have to copy the tweet, edit it for length, and then add commentary to the front.

Some organizations have asked that reporters include the disclaimer “links and retweets not considered endorsements,” but just as with the “thoughts and opinions are mine and not employers” disclaimer, it’s something that should be implied and not necessary to announce.

Justin Fenton, a crime reporter at the Baltimore Sun and an avid Twitter user, includes the line in his own profile, but says that it’s essentially a useless tactic to cover himself.

“The people who are going to get upset about it aren’t going to look at that disclaimer,” Fenton says. “I still hear from people who say, ‘I can’t believe you said that the other day and are expressing your opinion.’ Those are people who aren’t familiar with Twitter.”
[The Naked Retweet Dilemma - American Journalism Review]

A retweet cannot be considered an endorsement because Twitter does not provide default tools to add context. A retweet is merely a “Hey! Did you hear?…” or “So this just happened..” It is a reporting tool as much as it is a vehicle for sharing like-minded ideas.

More often than not, a retweet will be something the poster agrees with, however it cannot be assumed as such by default.

BBC Breaks News By Breaking Twitter

The BBC broke news this week when they said reporters are not allowed to break news via Twitter.

More than 2 years after the CBC declared an ‘online first’ mandate for their newsroom and after many other are flocking to the social networks to promote their stories, newscasts, and provide real-time updates to stories as they happen, the BBC is turning back the clock – sort of.

“When they have some breaking news, an exclusive or any kind of urgent update on a story, they must get written copy into our newsroom system as quickly as possible, so that it can be seen and shared by everyone – both the news desks which deploy our staff and resources (like TV trucks) as well as television, radio and online production teams.”
[BBC]

Really what the Beeb is trying to do is close the barn door before all the horses get out. In an era of daily death hoaxes and false leads, Twitter can quickly become a game of broken telephone.

The BBC is trying to bring a moment of sober second thought to the breaking news method. By alerting the news desk of a hot story, all channels can be on the same page and facts can be verified by the entire team. News can still be broken quickly, but it will be done – hopefully – without killing a man before he’s dead.

Last August, ESPN implemented a similar guideline preventing reporters from breaking news on Twitter. They also urged their reporters to think before they tweet or re-tweet.

Many called out that decision as a feeble attempt by the network to strangle new media with the traditions of the old.

Other news outlets are responding to the shifting technical tides of journalism as well. The UK’s Sky News and the Associated Press have each updated the rules of retweeting.

Sky News is banning journos from retweeting saying that when you retweet, you endorse the content of the tweet as factual. Without an editor to verify the information, Sky believes that accurate reporting is at risk.

So, to reiterate, don’t tweet when it is not a story to which you have been assigned or a beat which you work.

Where a story has been Tweeted by a Sky News journalist who is assigned to the story it is fine, desirable in fact, that it is retweeted by other Sky News staff.

Do not retweet information posted by other journalists or people on Twitter. Such information could be wrong and has not been through the Sky News editorial process”.
[The Drum]

The Associated Press is warning journalists against ‘naked retweets‘ saying that context must be added before blankly passing along the words of another.

TWITTER’S BEST PRACTICES FOR NEWSROOMS

While the traditional media is grappling with the new way of doing things and trying to rationalize old school ethics with new school breaking news, Twitter has tossed up an entire section on how newsrooms and journalists can use Twitter. There are best practices, strategies for search, tools, branding, display guidelines, tips for effective tweeting, and many more sections.

Twitter is doing it right, building a bridge between new and old:

We want to make our tools easier to use so you can focus on your job: finding sources, verifying facts, publishing stories, promoting your work and yourself—and doing all of it faster and faster all the time.

We know you come from different generations. Some are native to the pilcrow, others to the hashtag. You began your careers in different media: radio, print, broadcast, online and mobile. But you share a common bond: the desire to make a difference in the world, bringing reliable information to the communities you serve.

The question is: Will old media cross that bridge and listen to the natives who will guide them through the new media wilderness?