The Too-Fleet Tweet

Should news organizations editorially monitor their employees' Twitter accounts?

On Monday, ABC News reporter Terry Moran broadcast President Obama’s off-the-record assessment of Kanye West’s MTV Video Music Award antics (“jackass”) to the world, via Twitter, before quickly deleting his tweet.

According to The Washington Post’s Howard Kurtz, Moran learned of the remark via a CNBC interview feed that was available to other news outlets; other ABC employees had actually considered blogging the exchange before deciding not to. (Presumably Moran was not part of this conversation, though it’s not quite clear from the account.) Afterwards, ABC apologized profusely to the White House and CNBC, releasing a statement that said the too-fleet tweet went out “before our editorial process had been completed,” and vowing that it was “taking steps to ensure that it will not happen again.”

Just what those steps will be, though, was left unspecified, and they’re not immediately obvious. Much of the appeal of Twitter, after all, is its streamlined (or nonexistent) “editorial process.” So: other than reminding reporters to pay close attention to “off-the-record” guidelines, is there anything news outlets can do to prevent this sort of faux pas? And if they can, should they? Would the trade-off be worth it?

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The Editors are the staffers of Columbia Journalism Review.