Arment Dietrich

WSJ gets slapped with social media rules

By: Arment Dietrich | May 13, 2009 | 

According to Editor and Publisher, Wall Street Journal employees were given a set of rules and policies for their use of social networks, on sites such as Twitter and Facebook.


I am one for structure but I am also a veteran to Facebook and had a profile and photos up when it was only open to people with email addresses ending in .edu.  So to me it seems silly to send rules such as, “don’t engage in any impolite dialogue with those who may challenge your work — no matter how rude or provocative they may seem”  or “don’t discuss articles that haven’t been published, meetings you’ve attended or plan to attend with staff or sources, or interviews that you’ve conducted.”  If employees at one of the most respected publications in the world don’t know this on their own, we have bigger problems.


Now, I was not lucky enough to read the e-mail that distributed the document, but if I were the deputy managing editor responsible for getting these across I would embrace social networking sites and also offer advice to those reporters not yet online. 


Besides rules prohibiting these writers they should be educated on how they can connect effectively with their readers using sites such as Twitter and Facebook while representing the publication in the most professional of fashion.


If you were asked to send WSJ employees an addendum of tips on how they can work with new media, what would you add?

  • I agree that there need to be guidelines and policies about what you can and cannot say, on behalf of the company, on social networks. I don’t like to put my travel plans out there or even my dog’s real name. But I have common sense.

    I mean, let’s be real here. We have to put warning signs on plastic bags telling people not to put them on their heads. Not everyone has common sense.

  • Molli Megasko

    I’m on board with the guidelines (though, some are plastic bag silly), but I think there should have been more offered. Instead of just saying what you can’t do, I think they should have been given tips on how to engage.

  • Certainly, there needs to be guidelines, especially when representing a company or organization. The problem as I see it comes down to training.

    Really, how many companies provide social media training to their employees? Do employees truly understand the reach of social media and the long-lasting implications of a statement or comment online. And, company management that does establish social media guidelines, even for company purposes such as marketing and public relations, do they really know and understand social media themselves?

    Let’s face it, social media is relatively new and the long-term effects are still to be determined. Hopefully, the results will be more positive than negative.

    The biggest problem as I see it, companies are still reluctant to commit resources to social media, instead looking at social media as a fad, or as a necessary evil because “everyone is doing it” and not for the benefits it could bring. Once that is realized, resources will be committed to training and employees will have full understanding of the pros and cons of social media, and the lasting implications for their company, their career, and yes, their personal life.

  • The list is probably just a CYA document so lawyers can justify terminating idiots, issuing takedown notices, etc. I don’t think the guidelines are meant to be taken seriously, by the authors or by the readers.

    I agree with Paul – trainings are the only way to get that across.

    The problem with training is that nobody’s really qualified to give Social Media lessons in a way that holds the teacher accountable for results of the users.

    Social Media is still an abstract idea that varies from one situation to the next – and all abstract ideas, like… well, for example: “Freedom.” It means different things to different people in different contexts. Social Media is similar because it’s different for entrepreneurs vs. individuals vs. corporations vs. employees vs. teachers vs. students vs. etc.

  • I posted an interesting cartoon and comments yesterday that touches on this subject as well.