Social media ethics for journalists

In case you haven’t seen them, here’s a link to the Radio Television Digital News Association ethical guidelines for the use of social media in gathering and disseminating news.  The Poynter’s Al Tompkins was one of the architects.

We wanted to speak to how speed and space limitations can compromise accuracy and fairness. We wanted to speak to the frictions that occur when journalists “friend” people on Facebook. We wanted to say something about how journalists are always journalists, even when they are off the clock. We also thought it was important to speak to how journalists sometimes say or post things online that they would not say or show on the air.

Additionally, we wanted to say loudly that Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other such sites have a legitimate place in the distribution and collection of news and information, but that like any tools, they should be used carefully.

In addition to all that Tompkins mentions, one of the guidelines that strikes me as particularly noteworthy is the suggestion that news organizations correct their social media mistakes.  As someone who turns to Twitter and other social media sites during breaking news, I can tell you that many news organizations do report inaccuracies, but few seem to own up to it.  It seems to me that preserving journalistic integrity is critical to preserving journalism’s future — and that every station ought to be developing a social media corrections policy.  How about you?

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2 Comments

  1. It’s interesting to see how social media platforms contribute to finding news, reporting it and solving issues. People who know how to navigate and use these online tools have an advantage as reporters, if they use it wisely. The Washington Posts Correction Policy advocates for accuracy as a goal and candor as a defense. These should be implimented into whatever social media policies get integrated.

  2. As a South African financial journalist I’ve used Twitter / Facebook etc to do personal brand building and to build my network with other financial sector players.

    At the moment a grey area for a lot of our “market commentators” is that if they “Tweet” something the question is whether or not they “said” it…

    I guess the usual caveat applies – don’t post something you don’t have the courage to write in professional circles.

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