Paul Rodriguez (Twitter handle @pjrodriguez) has updated his Twitter profile to include the information that he works for the National Cable & Telecommunications Association and blogs at its CableTechTalk.com. Good for him.
That came after he was referred to in a front-page Washington Post article Saturday about Twitter as a lobbying tool. He had Tweeted about network neutrality, the Post reporter pointed out, but his Twitter bio did not identify him as working for the cable trade group, which has a vested interest in the issue.
The story was a cautionary tale for many of us trying to navigate this new digital world. When in doubt, disclose. And anyone who is not in doubt about just what the rules of the road are is fooling themselves.
To clarify the issue,” Rodriguez told me, “I have updated my Twitter profile.” Sure enough, by Saturday night it clearly identified him as “Pop culture maven and cable blogger. UPDATE: I work for NCTA & blog at CableTechTalk.com.” Sadly, that did not leave room for his shout-out to Orson Welles, who, I am told, cannot be contacted at @rosebud.
The issue is one a lot of us in the journalism business have to face. In this world of multiple news and opinion outlets, where everybody is expected to be blogging and tweeting to keep up and keep others in the loop, there are not yet clear guidelines on how to proceed. Sometimes I think the speed at which we can do things has outstripped the vetting process for whether we should do them and what the consequences might be. I am not Luddite, but I do fear that in this net-centric town, driven by a young administration eager to live online, the order of business is sometimes “ready, fire, aim.”
I have myself had to stop and re-think how to write opinion at the same time that I am covering an issue as straight news. I am confident I can separate the two, but appearance is important, too.
I would argue that caveat Tweeter should be the natural baseline for everyone. We have no idea the ulterior motives or identities of the sources of boatloads of information proliferating on the net, outside of those we know, and even those could have a face that they hide away from strangers.
I think Rodriguez made the right call adding that ID to his bio, and I aim to pay closer attention to my own Tweets, arguably more carefully than Paul since journalists must be even more like Caesar’s wife.