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Associated Press Updates: Retweets, Shoutouts, and Illegal Immigrants

Posted on: November 16th, 2011 by Steve Vittorioso | No Comments

While it’s natural to comment on retweets, the Associated Press has issued new social media guidelines dictating that staffers must abstain from sharing or implying opinions via retweets of top headlines.

According to updated procedures, “retweets, like tweets, should not be written in a way that looks like you’re expressing a personal opinion on the issues of the day.” The measure still applies even if staffers have noted in their profiles that retweets are not endorsement equivalents. The guidelines, which were last updated in July, previously said staffersare welcome to retweet and share material posted by official AP-branded accounts on social networking sites (e.g., @AP, @APStylebook, etc).”

I believe these guidelines help put a line in the social sand between objectivity and subjectivity. A former reporter myself, I consider journalists keepers of the written word, who document, analyze and report events and issues that unfold and affect society. Their mission is to remain objective, free from injecting their opinions into reports by citing facts and speaking with sources to explore the roots of the causes. As Twitter is becoming a personal platform for social democracy, more individuals are turning to the micro-blogging soap box to voice their outcries and praises about current events. This creates the perfect storm for objectivity and subjectivity to intertwine into a haze of clutter that makes separating fact, fiction and truth almost impossible.

It isn’t news that journalism is seeing a rapidly altering landscape. Throngs of print publications are facing sharp circulation declines and multitudes of newsrooms are becoming more dynamic. Not to mention breaking news is publishing even faster because of bloggers. For journalists, social media outlets are becoming supplemental to boost on-the-ground reporting because these platforms provide interview subjects and on-the-scene points of view.

While AP updated its staff guidelines, it also made some amendments to its stylebook  (not to be confused with @fakeAPstylebook, one of my favorite handles). The de facto guide to news writing now acknowledges shoutout as a noun and shout out as a verb – I gave my friends a shoutout; I shout out to my friends.

What’s creating a very loud shoutout is the term illegal immigrant. AP recently decided to still dictate journalists to use illegal immigrant, not illegal alien, an illegal, illegal or undocumented. According to the stylebook, the term should be used to describe someone who “resides in a country in criminal or civil violation of immigration law.” It also says that “living in the country without legal permission” is an acceptable alternative for illegal immigrant. Regardless, some journalists and news consumers say the term is dehumanizing and wrong, even if AP is trying to refine its definition for clarity and changing immigration laws.

Both debates are sparking discussions worthy of more than 140 characters.

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