The dangers of Twitter

Twitter’s speed and ease make it the world headquarters of snap judgments. From reading Mr. Martin’s post about Mr. Beckham and another one about a Patriots fan dressed all in pink, I saw little evidence per se that what he said was homophobic. So I could have joined the digital debate with something like: “Hey haters, cool it, let Martin be Martin. Let’s move on, people.”

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But I didn’t, even though I am something of a free speech absolutist, partly because my Twitter bio identifies me as someone who writes about media for The New York Times. When I do post on Twitter, I often look at it through the eyes of my boss and his bosses and ask, is this congruent with the journalistic values of the institution — or, more succinctly, will it create a headache for my employer?

In the 15,000 or so tweets and retweets I have written, there are a few I’d like back and a few that probably made my betters uncomfortable, but mostly I’ve stayed out of the ditch. The rule at The Times is that there is no rule, but there is an expectation, as Philip B. Corbett, the standards editor for the paper, told me in an e-mail: “We expect Times journalists to behave like Times journalists, and they generally do.”

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