Reality check needed for journalists on social media

Gannett has a new social media policy for journalists, and though it is similar to those established by many other news outlets, it does serve as a reminder that it’s getting harder than ever for journalists to draw the line between their public and private lives.

Here are some of the policy specifics that target journalists (emphasis added).

  • Be transparent in social media; always make clear that you work for Gannett or for your local Gannett news organization.
  • Consider that the content you post is public and should meet the same standards as information you publish or broadcast on Gannett platforms. Never post anything you would not be willing publish or broadcast.
  • Remember that social networks…Like other forms of public expression – attending political demonstrations, voicing opinions on a talk show, making political campaign contributions – they are subject to the limitations that are placed on newsroom employees through the Principles of Ethical Conduct.
  • Ensure that your public conduct – on and off the job – does not undermine your credibility with the public or Gannett’s standing as a fair and impartial source of news.

There you have it, folks — the message is that you’re always working when you’re using social media.

Screen Shot 2013-09-10 at 4.18.18 PMIf you needed more proof, consider the most recent social media mess involving a Huntsville, Ala. reporter.  Shea Allen of ABC affiliate WAAY was fired after she revealed what the station considered too much information on her personal blog.

What Allens’ experience seems to suggest is that there really is no such thing as “personal social media,” at least for those who plan to work for traditional, corporate-owned news outlets.  For them, social media is not a place to let it all hang out, it’s one more place to work.