Amid their decline newspapers still trying to figure out social media

I really don’t envy journalists in today’s tumultuous world of changing media boundaries. One minute they are expected to behave as journalists have have for decades and the next they are have to navigate the new world of Twitter and Facebook – often without any “established” guidelines.

This has resulted in many news organizations to finally face facts – social media isn’t going anywhere so we had better figure out how to finally use in a way that is on one hand ready for the future but still tries to maintain journalistic ethics. Sure it is one thing to be willing to jump in with both feet and harness the power of social media and all it can add to journalism, the trick is how to do it without impugning the integrity of the organization, the reporters, photographers and editors.

To do this news organizations like the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Associated Press, Roanoke Times along with many others have been trying to hammer out a code of ethics guidelines that they can live with when it comes to dealing with social media.


Mary Hartney, director of audience engagement at the Baltimore Sun, says reporters, editors, managers and others will help shape the new guidelines. “The technology is changing, so I hope the ethics policy is a living document,” says Hartney, who estimates about half the Sun’s newsroom actively uses social networks. “All of this stuff is changing very rapidly. So, anything you write down in an ethics policy or as a best practice is liable to change next week.”

On social networks, you should identify yourself as a journalist, tell recipients if you’re using social networks in a professional capacity and remain mindful that people will regard you as a representative of your newsroom, says Kelly McBride, ethics group leader at the Poynter Institute.

“For journalists, transparency is one of the most important values,” she says. “That doesn’t mean you don’t act as an individual, but there should be a caution gate if there’s anything that might embarrass your newsroom.”

Source: American Journalism Review :: The Limits of Control