Twitter Etiquette: Are Tweets Fair Game?

TAP’s Adam Serwer and TPM’s David Kurtz independently report that ABC’s Jake Tapper has blocked them from following his Twitter feed. They note the irony that a journalist who expects politicians to be transparent is doing this.

I happen to follow Tapper — and am apparently not important enough to block — and see that he has unblocked TPM and that he’s engaged in tweets the last couple of hours about “rudeness” on his feed. Steve Benen suggests that said “rudeness” was a snarky comment Serwer posted on his blog directed at Tapper and offers his view that “blocking those who offer mild criticism seems kind of petty.”

Whatever. Frankly, Tapper has 5197 followers and he can block whoever he likes.   I have a mere 736 followers and don’t block anyone unless they’re obvious spammers.

The forgoing is a rather long and diversionary setup for what this post is actually about, inspired by the headlines of Benen’s (“Tapper, Twitter, and Online Etiquette”) and Serwer’s (“This Feed is Closed to the Press”) posts displayed at memeorandum.   Namely, what exactly is the etiquette of Twitter if you’re a journalist?

Is Twitter a semi-private conversation between friends? Or is it considered a public forum similar to a blog post?

Given the nature of the media, I don’t post anything on Twitter or Facebook that I expect to be private. Then again, I mostly use social media to push blog posts and glean information for writing blog posts.

But people younger than I tend to use these fora to “microblog” every inane thought that pops into their head.  Are such tweets fair game for publication?  If so, Tapper is quite right to block any follower who might be inclined to embarrass him with some half-baked thought he dashed off while waiting in line at the Starbucks.

Perhaps Twitter needs to have some sort of journalistic code wherein individual users can specify how their Tweets are to be treated?

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. tom p says:

    If so, Tapper is quite right to block any follower who might be inclined to embarrass him with some half-baked thought he dashed off while waiting in line at the Starbucks.

    Ummmm, sorry James, but couldn’t Tapper easily enuf deal with this by just simply NOT embarrassing himself “with some half-baked thought he dashed off while waiting in line at the Starbucks”

    Gee… self control… who’da thunk it?

  2. Triumph says:

    Given the nature of the media, I don’t post anything on Twitter or Facebook that I expect to be private. Then again, I mostly use social media to push blog posts and glean information for writing blog posts.

    I go even a step further–to include my private email responses. Given that emails are so easy to forward, I basically write things I wouldn’t be too embarrassed having the world see.

  3. James Joyner says:

    I go even a step further–to include my private email responses. Given that emails are so easy to forward, I basically write things I wouldn’t be too embarrassed having the world see.

    I’m not quite that disciplined but, yes, a good policy. I’m less likely to write something dumb than say it, just given the nature of the composition process.

  4. James Joyner says:

    couldn’t Tapper easily enuf deal with this by just simply NOT embarrassing himself “with some half-baked thought he dashed off while waiting in line at the Starbucks”

    Sure. But 99% of Twitter is half-baked thoughts quickly dashed off. It’s like IMing or Texting but not as formal!

  5. tom p says:

    Sure. But 99% of Twitter is half-baked thoughts quickly dashed off. It’s like IMing or Texting but not as formal!

    One more reason I don’t follow all the latest trends (you can put this one under “Recipes for Stupidity”). As triumph said:

    I go even a step further–to include my private email responses.

    After I got burned a couple times, I became a whole lot more careful.

  6. Steve Verdon says:

    What? He cut me off from Twitter?!?! Why I’ll show him, to the blog!!

    Sheesh.

    I go even a step further–to include my private email responses. Given that emails are so easy to forward, I basically write things I wouldn’t be too embarrassed having the world see.

    Hmmm, I always thought this was a big internet no-no. That the person doing this would likely be scorned far more than the person whose intemperate e-mail was being forwarded or posted publicly. Needless to say, I consider private e-mails private and don’t publish the content unless express permission is given.

    Tom,

    Ummmm, sorry James, but couldn’t Tapper easily enuf deal with this by just simply NOT embarrassing himself “with some half-baked thought he dashed off while waiting in line at the Starbucks”

    To add to James’ point, look at the name of the service in question…twitter. It reminds me of pre-pubescent girls chattering away about the latest all boy pop band–all a-twitter over the Jonas Brothers or High School Musical….

  7. tom p says:

    To add to James’ point, look at the name of the service in question…twitter. It reminds me of pre-pubescent girls chattering away about the latest all boy pop band–all a-twitter over the Jonas Brothers or High School Musical….

    I totally agree Steve… and if one doesn’t want to be taken for the intellectual equivalent of “pre-pubescent girls chattering away about the latest all boy pop band–“, it behooves one not to act like one by posting “half baked thoughts”.
    If one does so, well, all I can say is, “Better to keep one’s mouth shut and thought a fool, than opening it and proving oneself a fool.”

    Of course, sometimes I ain’t so good at taking my own advice 😉

  8. Bithead says:

    I suspect Tappers move came as the result of the noise level coming from those sources in the service. Once they found themselves disconnected, they decided to get the rabble roused.

    It’s a trick I’ve seen many times over on many mediums, going all the way back to the GT and FIDO days in the late 70’s early 80’s.
    (Yawn)

  9. sam says:

    Heh, being the old fogey that I am, I know almost nothing about Twitter except that it appears to be a medium for communal mind dumps. Which I immediately thought of during last night’s BSG finale when the final five join in communion to reinstate resurrection for the bad skinjobs. Ellen tells them beforehand, we will all know everything that is in each other’s minds…upshot the whole plan gets frakked up when someone reacts rather badly to something someone else has been hiding. Unintended consequences to the max, I guess.

    (BTW, is one who twitters called a “twit”? Just asking.)

  10. hcantrall says:

    Stephen Colbert has this to say about twitter:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E4EoN4nr5FQ