An Associated Press reporter’s official reprimand over an innocuous comment on his Facebook page has sparked the ire of union officials. They are now demanding that AP clarify its ethics guidelines and are also urging reporters to watch who they add to their friends lists.
“We have seen about six Facebook problems over the last two months, with employees — maybe managers you have as friends — reporting potential issues to management,” union guild chief Kevin Keane wrote in a memo to union members last week. “You must be careful who you allow on as friends.”
Richard Richtmyer, a Philadelphia-based newsman, set off Tuesday’s tempest with a seemingly harmless comment posted to his Facebook profile late last month criticizing the executive management of newspaper publisher McClatchy, whose stock plummeted following a 2006 acquisition of San Jose-based Knight Ridder.
“It seems like the ones who orchestrated the whole mess should be losing their jobs or getting pushed into smaller quarters,” Richtmyer wrote on May 28. “But they aren’t.”
McClatchy, like countless other newspaper publishers, happens to be a member of the AP’s newsgathering cooperative. Had the comment been uttered in real life, it likely would have dissipated into the rank air of a Philly journo bar. But Richtmyer had some 51 AP colleagues as Facebook friends, some of them higher up in the AP food chain. One turned out to be a “mole” — Richtmyer’s description — and the reporter was given a firm talking-to by AP management, who put a reprimand letter in his employment file.
Richtmyer's comment about McClatchy's corporate management is one of the mildest criticisms about McClatchy's management I've heard. Jeez.