Dhanya Rajendran| Bangalore| August 26, 2014| 2.30 pm IST
Social media seems to be the new bad guy on the block if developments in some newsrooms in India are to be believed. With social media entering the daily journalistic space, and becoming an integral part of journalism, most companies are grappling with policies on how their journalists can use the media in their personal and professional capacities.
Times of India
On Tuesday morning, Quartz reported that journalists working for Bennett Coleman and Company Limited - the company that owns Times of India, Economic Times, Times Now, ET Now , Navbharat Times amongst other media outlets - were told not to post any news links on their personal Twitter and Facebook accounts.
The journalists working for BCCL will now have to start a company-authorised social media account, and will need to hand over their Twitter and Facebook passwords to the management who could post information on these accounts, Quartz quotes from a contract copy they are in possession of.
However, CEO of Times Internet Satyan Gajwani tweeted a few hours later, saying that the Quartz report was ‚Äúinaccurate‚ÄĚ, and that it did not ‚Äúobligate‚ÄĚ Times Group to respond.
In a series of tweets, Gajwani said:
Quartz India Editor, Sruthijith replied
Gajwani also claimed that the version of the contract reported by the Quartz was old, which was confirmed by a senior editor at BCCL to the The News Minute independently. "There have been efforts within the company to formulate a policy for social media use for its employees. The contract quoted by Quartz is an older version, it was circulated amongst some employees. Some signed it too. But there was a re-think and a new contract has been drawn up now, with some changes," the editor said.
Journalists working across many BCCL offices confirm that they have not received any contract as of Tuesday morning. But not much information is forthcoming from the BCCL about when the first and second versions of the contract were made and what changes have been incorporated in the latest contract.
The New Indian Express
If you follow the The New Indian Express (TNIE) on Twitter, you must have noticed that the handle retweets many tweets from its journalists spread across the country. NIE reporters definitely seem to be Twitter enthusiastic. But the Twitter enthusiasm, according to many journalists there is more out of persuasion than out of free will.
From last year TNIE Editor Prabhu Chawla has been insisting that reporters need to tweet news at least 10 a day. When many reporters, some who did not even have Twitter accounts did not respond to the rule, a string of mails followed.
One mail in the beginning of 2013 said, ‚ÄúAs discussed, each chief reporter should gather the info from their particular areas about tweets yesterday. They can ask the reporters to cite the number of tweets they did yesterday. Non-compliance will no longer be tolerated."
A senior editor in the internet desk in Chennai pointed out later that some reporters were tweeting without hash tags and were re-tweeting news and links from other news sites.
In June 2013, the NIE officially told its employees that ten tweets and five web stories need to be filed every week. If they don't, Rs 100 per Tweet and Rs 500 per story will be deducted from the salary as per the new contract which was handed over later that month.
But unlike other media houses, NIE has not restricted their journalists from sharing news or links of other organization. ‚ÄúThough they had spoken about salary cuts, and a contract was given, no one‚Äôs salary has actually been cut,‚ÄĚ a journalist working with NIE told The News Minute.
Another pointed out that it was okay to ask journalists to tweet, but imposing it on them was not the best approach. ‚ÄúThe basic strategy should be to open a digital desk in each bureau and equip it wil people who know how to deal with socialmedia,‚Äô said another employee.
TNIE editor Prabhu Chawla did not respond to The News Minute‚Äôs query on social media policy.
Earlier this month, The Hindu asked its reporters to refrain from tweeting news links of other media organizations.
A mail sent to some of The Hindu employees by Managing Editor P Jacob and Senior Managing Editor V Jayanth earlier this month says that there is a need to use social media responsibly, and ‚Äėsharing contents of other, especially competing, publications will be in poor form and is preferably avoided.‚Äô
While it is clear from all the above examples that conventional media in India is trying to dictate or weave in social media usage into their daily working patterns, there exists much confusion. Censoring or issuing guidelines raise on not to share stories or applaud colleagues in the profession who may have secured a scoop, is definitely worrying.