In 1969, two computers — one at Stanford University, the other at UCLA — were linked together for the first time, creating the first computer network in what would eventually become the Internet. A few years later, email came along, allowing professors and scholars from around the world to collaborate with each other on various projects at a speed that was previously unheard of: Near-real time.
Flash forward several years later, and we’ve got the Internet as we know it: From social media to streaming video websites, it’s a massive collection of servers and tubes carrying unbelievable amounts of data at lightning-fast speed.
That speed, apparently, was too much for one news organization to handle.
On Tuesday, it was revealed by The Guardian newspaper that News Corporation’s Sky News has rolled out a policy that will prevent its journalists on social platforms from collaborating with their peers in the future.
The policy, in part, instructs journalists not to share content delivered by other journalists on the website Twitter (“re-tweet”), mostly due to editorial concerns.
“Do not retweet information posted by other journalists or people on Twitter,” the email obtained by The Guardian reads. “Such information could be wrong and has not been through the Sky News editorial process.”
The policy really isn’t anything new. A colleague of mine at Sky — one of several people I know there — told me last year in a casual conversation that Sky News managers frequently frown upon their journalists from re-tweeting information delivered by people who aren’t established journalists.
But the policy revealed on Tuesday goes so far as to specifically instruct journalists not to retweet any journalist outside of the Sky News bubble — and now the policy’s in print.
It doesn’t end there either — Sky News is now discouraging, not just social collaboration with peers at other news organizations, but social collaborations with peers at its own news organization.
“Don’t tweet when it’s someone [else's] story,” the email goes on to read. “Stick to your own beat.”
If you need a moment to scream into a towel, feel free to take a few seconds.
Back? Okay, good.
Most of us could probably understand the overly-cautious stance of these social guidelines if they were coming from a news organization just learning how to walk on social platforms.
For Sky News, that’s not the case: One of their star social media players, Neal Mann (@fieldproducer), is already sprinting ahead of the competition.
In November 2010, Neal was picking glass out of his reporter’s hair during the student protests in London while live-tweeting to a little over 2,000 followers on Twitter. Today, Neal is being called upon by universities and Fortune 500 companies like Nike to instruct others on how to take their first steps on platforms like Twitter and Facebook — while broadcasting to almost 40,000 followers on Twitter.
That kind of brand-establishment and following would not have been possible under Sky News’ newly-adopted policy of restricting collaboration with his peers, both inside and outside of the Sky News bubble. His collaboration on a wide variety of news stories not only landed him full-time employment with Sky News, but it brought him a huge list of contacts at many other news organizations — including myself — who have fed into his social network and helped him build an incredible presence and product.
Sky News should want that for all of their journalists.
Food for thought: One of my social media rules is “On the Internet, you’re a collaborator first and a competitor second.”