What ethical questions might you face while using social media as a professional journalist?
It’s important to recognize that even as a student journalist, once you publish online, you’re indistinguishable from a professional journalist: your words and works are held to the same ethical and legal standards as a professional journalist. Paul Bradshaw wrote about this recently: There’s no such thing as a ‘student journalist’. You are responsible for making sure your words are accurate, that you’ve used attribution, triple checked your facts and thought carefully about the ethical implications of your actions. You don’t have an editor standing over you when you tweet, post and comment.
As journalists spend more and more time in online social spaces, news organizations are crafting guidelines to help them calibrate their behavior. Some news organizations, like the Journal Register Company, give journalists wide leeway:
Dan Gillmor provides a little more guidance in his column in the Guardian:
1) Be human.
2) Be honorable.
3) Don’t embarrass us.
Thinking in advance about how to reason through various questions helps prepare you for on-the-job dilemmas:
- As a journalist, what can you ethically use in a news story that you glean from social networks? (See the Annie Le case)
- How do you verify information from social media before retweeting or using? (8 must-reads detail how to verify information in real-time, from social media, users) (Storify’s verification process)
- How do you avoid posting or tweeting inaccurate information? (How Tragedy Strikes When Journalism and Social Media Lack Ethics and Humanity)
- How do you correct an inaccuracy you’ve made in a tweet or post? (How should journalists handle incorrect tweets?)
- How do you respond when someone flames you on social media? (How do you respond to trolls? You don’t)
- How should you respond to hateful or racist comments posted on an article you’ve published?
- Is it ethical to allow anonymous comments on your work? Is it ethical to block anonymous comments?
- As an opinion writer, what do you owe people you write about personally? (I am Adam Lanza’s Mother)
- Can you share your own opinions about social issues on social media and still be a credible journalist?
For further reading:
Digital Media Ethics by Stephen J. A. Ward
We get the net — and society — we build, by Jeff Jarvis