How to be ethical and active on social media

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:

JRC Rules


Dan Gillmor provides a little more guidance in his column in the Guardian:

1) Be human.
2) Be honorable.
3) Don’t embarrass us.

Other organizations have much more extensive guidelines: NPR, for example and the Washington Post.

Thinking in advance about how to reason through various questions helps prepare you for on-the-job dilemmas:

For further reading:

Digital Media Ethics by Stephen J. A. Ward

We get the net — and society — we build, by Jeff Jarvis

Social Media Guidelines for Student Journalists, ASU


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