Active tweeters leave Sky News

Two well-known Twitter personalities, Neal Mann and Ruth Barnett, quit the network on Friday, calling attention to Sky's strict Twitter rules for staff.


Jennifer Abel


Published Mar 16, 2012   Updated Jun 2, 2021, 7:55 pm CDT

At least two Sky News journalists left the British television network Friday in the wake of an unpopular social media policy imposed on employees in February.

Sky News adopted a set of rules that effectively forbade employees from posting links to articles from any rival media company, or on topics the employee didn’t cover on his or her beat.

In other words, Sky asked its reporters not to use Twitter the way almost all of the journalists they compete with use Twitter—and thereby compete with one hand tied behind their back. NPR’s Andy Carvin, the most popular Twitter user in a recent poll of Daily Dot readers, is known for his eclectic sourcing, which has led him to emerge as one of the most authoritative voices on Twitter on subjects like the Arab Spring.

On Feb. 7, the Guardian quoted from a Sky News memo about the policy:

“[D]on’t tweet when it is not a story to which you have been assigned or a beat which you work.

“Where a story has been Tweeted by a Sky News journalist who is assigned to the story it is fine, desirable in fact, that it is retweeted by other Sky News staff.

“Do not retweet information posted by other journalists or people on Twitter. Such information could be wrong and has not been through the Sky News editorial process.”

Under such rules, Sky News journalists could not have retweeted Sohaib Athar’s tweet about a helicopter hovering above Abottabad, Pakistan—the first known report of the raid that led to Al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden’s capture and death.

Five weeks later, on March 16, the Guardian posted the story’s sequel, saying  “social media wunderkind” Neal Mann, known on Twitter as @fieldproducer, had quit SkyNews and taken his nearly 50,000 Twitter followers with him. Mann’s colleague Ruth Barnett, known as @skyruth, resigned a few hours later.

Barnett, formerly Sky News’s designated “Twitter correspondent,” specifically denied that her resignation was over “any Twitter rules row,” or disagreement.

Mann did not explicitly criticize the Sky News Twitter policy when he resigned; his own tweeted announcement merely said, “I’ve decided to leave Sky News. I’ve had a brilliant 3 years, but the time has come to discover what else is out there.”

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*First Published: Mar 16, 2012, 7:43 pm CDT