New guidelines encourage Providence Journal staff to use social media

Jul 27, 2012

As the Providence Journal continues to wrestle with the challenges facing old-line media, reporters at the statewide daily are being encouraged to increase their use of social media.

A recently issued five-page set of social media guidelines “demonstrates a lot of faith in the professionalism of the people who work here,” says reporter John Hill, president of the Providence Newspaper Guild. ”Basically, the policy is, ‘don’t be a jerk.’ “

As we know, that’s useful advice for anyone on Internet.

Hill says the ProJo’s new guidelines compare favorably with some at other Guild papers across the country “that seem like they were written by the president of North Korea.” He says heavy-handed social media policies have been a contentious issue for newspaper union locals elsewhere. 

By contrast, Hill says, the ProJo policy encourages the use of social media, but doesn’t set any specific benchmarks. It underscores such traditional journalistic values as being careful about expressing opinion, he says.

As it stands, some ProJo reporters make robust use of social media while others don’t use it publicly as part of their jobs.

Medical reporter Felice Freyer is a standout on Twitter, for example, where she has company from such colleagues as Statehouse reporter Phil Marcelo and economics-beat scribe Kate Bramson. Along with Freyer, baseball reporters Tim Britton and Brian MacPherson have a keen understanding of how to use social media while feeding the online and print paper.

Political columnist Ed Fitzpatrick this week reactivated his Twitter account, but it’s not clear if that came in response to the ProJo’s new guidelines.