Fired Social Media Editor Shares Reuters’ Twitter Guidelines; Demonstrates Professional Risks One Takes On Twitter

You may have heard of Matthew Keys. He’s a journalist who was indicted by the Department of Justice (DoJ) for allegedly “giving hackers access to the servers of his former employer, the Tribune Company. Tribune owns the Los Angeles Times, which the Anonymous hacker subsequently defaced.”

Keys was also, until recently, the social media editor for Reuters. After being let go today, he shared the news organization’s Twitter guidelines – and they demonstrate the dangers of combining personal and professional tweets online.

In a blog post, Keys shares reasons why Reuters was mad at him (and fired him) and that list includes the following:

Reuters said it had a problem with the perceived relationship between my Twitter account and their news organization. A Reuters manager said it was troublesome that several people associated my work on Twitter with the company, pointing to my Twitter bio that said I was a Reuters journalist. Reuters’ Twitter Guidelines, which you can read here, states that Reuters journalists are always expected to identify themselves as such.

That is a Catch 22 for me. On one hand, I could have removed information from my Twitter bio that said I was a Reuters employee while I was on suspension. However, that would have violated the company’s Twitter guidelines, and would have also violated the October warning that said I failed to identify myself as a Reuters journalist when on Twitter. Instead, I left the bio alone, which the company says created a perception that my work was associated with the company — even when Reuters has released statements and news reports to the contrary.

Reuters acknowledges I compiled with their guideline of identifying myself as a Reuters journalist, and a manager acknowledged that the company cannot police perception on Twitter. But the company said it was still enough of a reason to terminate my employment.

This whole thing begs endless questions. Here are a few to get you thinking:

    • Do you identify yourself as an employee of your company on your Twitter? Should you?
    • If you DO list your employer, does it give your employer an ‘easy out’ (as Keys infers in his post) to fire you?
    • Are you risking termination regardless as most people are easily identified (as in they’re not hiding behind anonymous handles) on Twitter?
    • And how much say should an employer have over your personal/professional social media presence regardless?

The Reuters Twitter Guidelines posted by Keys are shown below. Check them out and let us know what you think!

By the way, Keys plans to file a grievance. You can learn more about that here.

Editorial Learning: Thomson Reuters Twitter Guidelines for Journalists by Matthew Keys

(Image from Shutterstock)

@MaryCLong Mary C. Long is Chief Ghost at Digital Media Ghost. She writes about everything online and is published widely, with a focus on privacy concerns, specifically social sabotage.