Several Learfield (the company I work for) employee are members of the Radio and Television News Directors Association, so I was pleased to come across their recently published guidelines for social meida and blogging. A few snippits:
“Social media and blogs are important elements of journalism. They narrow the distance between journalists and the public. They encourage lively, immediate and spirited discussion. They can be vital news-gathering and news-delivery tools. As a journalist you should uphold the same professional and ethical standards of fairness, accuracy, truthfulness, transparency and independence when using social media as you do on air and on all digital news platforms. “
Ahem. This is where it would be tempting to remind some of my colleagues how ferociously they fought the very concept of blogging.
On Accountability and Transparency:
“You should not write anonymously or use an avatar or username that cloaks your real identity on newsroom or personal websites. You are responsible for everything you say. Commenting or blogging anonymously compromises this core principle.” [Emphasis mine]
“Be especially careful when you are writing, Tweeting or blogging about a topic that you or your newsroom covers. Editorializing about a topic or person can reveal your personal feelings. Biased comments could be used in a court of law to demonstrate a predisposition, or even malicious intent, in a libel action against the news organization, even for an unrelated story.” [Emphasis mine]
Reporters who forget that second point could face dire consequences.
Image and Reputation
“Remember that what’s posted online is open to the public (even if you consider it to be private). Personal and professional lives merge online. Newsroom employees should recognize that even though their comments may seem to be in their “private space,” their words become direct extensions of their news organizations. Search engines and social mapping sites can locate their posts and link the writers’ names to their employers.”
“Avoid posting photos or any other content on any website, blog, social network or video/photo sharing website that might embarrass you or undermine your journalistic credibility. Keep this in mind, even if you are posting on what you believe to be a “private” or password-protected site. Consider this when allowing others to take pictures of you at social gatherings. When you work for a journalism organization, you represent that organization on and off the clock. The same standards apply for journalists who work on air or off air.”
I don’t belong to RTNDA (or any association, if you don’t count the Order of the Fez) but I like these guidelines. Sort of, “Everything You Need to Know About Social Media You Learned in Kindergarten.”