Common sense can be scarce when professional communicators like journalists cram their thoughts into 140 characters.
Remember, Twitter is broadcasting. So if you wouldn't say it in polite company, on a global network or to someone's face: don't tweet it.
And if you're a cranky, flippant or hot-headed news type who still wants job security – the old 10-second rule applies. Go high-tech with it: use a desktop client, as we recommend in our social media shortcuts for journalists, to schedule your musings. Just seconds from now, raging on that company or that offhand remark about religion may not seem so smart. Twitter is too useful – think of it as a news wire on steroids – to let it chirp you out of a job.
Here are five types of tweets that can get you fired:
1. Profanity, vulgarity.
Common to many newsrooms, but do you really want to say it “on-air?” Columnist Catherine Deveny got sacked from The Age after her tweets about a child star at the Logie awards ceremony in Melbourne ("I do so hope Bindi Irwin gets laid," was one of her offending tweets.)
2. Political views.
"Sad to hear of the passing of Sayyed Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah...One of Hezbollah's giants I respect a lot." This tweet got CNN bureau chief Octavia Nasr fired. Silver lining: she is now a social media consultant.
3. Foot in the mouth.
"Lara Logan had to outdo Anderson," tweeted journalist Nir Rosen after Logan's sexual assault while covering the Egypt protests. Rosen got canned, even after tweeting numerous mea culpas.
4. Off the record material.
"Pres. Obama just called Kanye West a "jackass" for his outburst at VMAs when Taylor Swift won. Now THAT'S presidential." ABC News reporter Terry Moran managed to keep his job after tweeting off-the-record comments of his interview with the President. But just barely.
5. Personal rants.
Even your personal account reaches a wider audience. "The bean counter who saved Delta a few bucks in St. Louis hoping he wouldn't need more de-icing fluid this year screwed a lot of people today," got radio sports announcer Chadd Scott fired. Scott tweeted from his personal account while on vacation and the fracas cost him his day job – now he says nothing's harder than finding a new job. Another sports reporter – tweeting off at the mouth about a referee call – also found himself slapped with a lawsuit.
Have you ever had trouble with your employer over a tweet or social media?
Hat tip to Yoga Dork