Should Journalists Be On Twitter? Three Quarters Of NYTimes Readers Don't Think So.

Apparently, the New York Times is still unsure whether its reporters should be allowed to Tweet or not. Intrigued by this tweet from writer and consultant Stowe Boyd, I registered for the New York Times’ Insight Lab, an online community / focus group made up of Times readers interested in providing the media company with direct feedback.

The homepage features a quick poll asking members if they want to see Times’ reporters and editors on Twitter or not. I guess this is the most pressing issue the New York Times wants to hear from its readers about.

For some reason, close to three quarters of the respondents indicated that they’d prefer if the journalists stay far away from the micro-sharing service. Only 7 percent had no idea what Twitter is. There is zero indication on the site how many people are actually registered members of the Insight Lab, let alone how many so far participated in this poll. Nevertheless, I’m surprised to see the negative answer leading at this point.

Update: the NYT tells me The lab launched three weeks ago and currently has approximately 3,000 members, of which 455 members had responded to the Twitter poll at the time they contacted me. The media company emphasized that it has a robust and growing presence on social media sites like Twitter (more than 1.5 million followers to @nytimes and many individual journalists, with large Twitter followings).

In my mind, journalists are free to join any social networking site they want as long as they conduct themselves online the way they’re supposed to behave in meat space e.g. not embarrass themselves or the publications they work for and never do or say anything that could call their professional reputation into question. Here’s their policy on those sorts of things (a wee bit paranoid indeed, but understandable).

What’s the point of asking readers if Times journalists should be on Twitter, come to think of it? Maybe the Times is just looking for guidance, but something tells me they’d get better answers if they asked this question on Twitter itself. The @NYTimes account has 1.5 million followers, which is probably a much bigger sample than the people who managed to find the poll hidden away on the Insight Lab site.

Twitter’s far from perfect, but it’s not a fad. In my experience, you can get a lot of value out of the service as a reporter even if you choose not to engage in public tweeting but rather keep to a close circle. Heck, even Twitter Search seems to me an essential tool for journalists tracking breaking stories and events. Why would readers want journalists to be less informed?

Help the New York Times by answering our our own poll:

<a href=”” mce_href=””>Do you want to see NYT reporters and editors on Twitter?</a><span style=”font-size:9px;” mce_style=”font-size:9px;”>(<a href=”” mce_href=””>online surveys</a>)</span>