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Friday, May 21, 2010

When the new world and the old world grammatically collide

The Associated Press has well-established principles that most newsrooms and reporters are expected to follow when they write a story designed for official publication on a Web site, newspaper, or magazine. These guidelines determine the official ways to reference and abbreviate, and most of the world follows.

But what happens when these same reporters and editors who follow AP style are encouraged to embrace social media and Twitter? Should the same rules apply to the 140-character realm as they do to a 1,200 word article? According to Bloomberg News Editor in Chief Matt Winkler, some tweets may not hold up to traditional newsroom standards.

Winkler was less than pleased by some of his journalists’ recent Twitter activity. The reporters were tweeting during a congressional hearing. Winkler did not appreciate that the journalists were broadcasting a running commentary of the testimony rather than factual information, as seen below.
Twitter post by Bloomberg reporter: “McCain thumping on the ‘’you big bankers make too much money.’ Blankfein looks really uncomfortable.”

Winkler comment: ((xxx thumping xxx is an assertion that can’t be reported. Authenticity of quotation is questionable followed by assertion/opinion as there is nothing substantiating subjective xxx uncomfortable xxxx and therefore inaccurate.))

Twitter post by Bloomberg reporter: “Is Levin too cranky by half? Wonder if he’s making GS boys sympathetic characters.”

Winkler comment: ((xxx cranky by half xxx is an assertion/opinion and therefore inaccurate. xxx wonder xxx invites judgment which can’t be verified and is therefore inaccurate.))
What makes Twitter valuable is its immediacy, but the staccato conversations that Twitter facilitates should not be devoid of facts and grammar. AP style is an important way to help organize the written word, and it is interesting to see how established media organizations are struggling to find a place between the new and old world.