SPJ President John Ensslin emailed me yesterday to clarify his position on the limits for current national board members in connection with candidate campaigns.
Newly written campaign guidelines say “5. Current national SPJ board members should remain neutral in all elections.”
During Saturday’s SPJ Executive Committee meeting in Washington, D.C., I asked if there were more specific guidelines, such as whether and how board members could “friend,” “like” or “follow” candidates on social media.
Ensslin told me there were not, that the guidelines were purposely left broad.
But he realized later that he and I were talking about two different things. Here’s what he wrote yesterday in an email, which he gave me permission to post:
“Andy I misunderstood you when we were talking Saturday.
I thought you were referring to your Facebook page, not your campaign’s Facebook page.
Sorry for the misunderstanding, but I could see where some would think that friending a campaign page would amount to an endorsement.
So my advice to board members would be to refrain from doing so.
Being a friend on a personal Facebook page, however does not seem like a problem.
Again, sorry for the misunderstanding.
I agree with this sentiment. I’m usually outnumbered when this conversation comes up in the context of journalists connecting with sources, but I consider the word “friend” on Facebook to be just as it sounds – or carrying that perception, at least – and I don’t “friend” people I cover.
But, as I pointed out in my previous post about this
, SPJ has created election guidelines (“should” vs. “shall”), not rules, so board members may do as they see fit.
During a brief email thread about this among national board members yesterday, no one objected to board members following candidates on Twitter. “Following” was not seen as an endorsement.