Creating a new Twitter account entails sifting through thousands of users and intermittently clicking ‘follow’ if the ‘who am I?’ section is judged enticing or interesting enough. What caught my eye was the amount of tweeters (twitterers?) ensuring that everyone knew their posts were their own and not that of their employer. This widespread phenomena was particularly obvious with journalists. And it touched a nerve.
Imagine you worked for the ‘Daily Telegraph’, a slightly rightward leaning enterprise. Working for such a company does not necessarily carry with it the requirement of occupying the exact same spot on the political spectrum, but why would you write for it if you did not have the same views, if not similar ones. Which is exactly the point I wish to make.
In simplistic terms, your ideals would align more or less with that of your employer, but there will still be differences. These deviations create debate, and furthermore, envelop additonal readers who do not necessarily agree with the points made , but are encouraged by a newspaper taking such a wide stance and may, as a result, change some peoples’ pattern of thinking.
Once you are part of a company, it does not mean you lose your individuality and for you to have to claim that they are your individual thoughts and not echoed by your employer, proves that every once in a while you will write about something that does not fit your worldview. Instead, you should be free to type what you actually think, rather than having the editor peer from behind your shoulder and lecture you on why you cannot write about, for example, the disastrous impact of climate change.
And when you air your view, don’t you dare add: “this is not my employer’s view”! Your employer is a mass of individuals who think differently and are meant to express their views and not have their imagination or thoughts restricted by an artificial guideline. Every individual is the company.
Why is this so important? Take the example of the Iraq war. Almost every newspaper in the UK supported the invasion back in 2003, and any journalists expressing doubt were immediately sidelined. There is a reason why politicians continue to fight for every inch of space they can get. Why? Because newspapers matter. They can turn a disastrous policy into an acceptable, even desirable one. If there had been less censorship on the individuality of people that are essentially the creators of the news, who knows what a change in public thinking could have brought about.
All in all, the lesson for today is the following: don’t let your employer limit what you write in their name. Journalism is about free thinking that creates room for debate, instead of a monotone debate that stifles free thinking.