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Ethics in Social Media: Lindsay Davis

by on January 29, 2013

Whether or not we as journalists should or should not publish content on conflict issues is and will remain an ethical issue for as long as journalists are around. However, over the past few decades, social media outlets such as Twitter and Facebook have changed the ethics of shedding light upon conflict issues. Twenty years ago, a journalist could decide whether or not a publication should be made, but now, these decisions are not as affective. Media outlets allow for users to express and share something, which at any moment can go viral. It is not as easy to cover up information, and some may argue this is a good thing while others could disagree. There are two sides to the spectrum when debating the pros and cons of social media outlets. Take for example, the Sandyhook Elementary School shooting. Coverage of the event was sporadic and changed almost every hour throughout the day. The news spread very fast and people who were following the event were tweeting constant updates, though some of this information was false or coming from unreliable sources, and was constantly being corrected by news stations. Whether social media can be considered a good or bad news outlet, it is only getting more popular as technology expands. I think as journalists we have to be able to adapt to social media and recognize it as a powerful outlet for the future of journalism. Leave your comments on what you think the future for social media is in the field of journalism, if you think this is good or bad, and whether or not social media sites can be used as a reliable means of obtaining daily news.


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  1. I agree that social media and technological advancements have changed and will continue to change the face of journalism. These particular platforms allow for just about anyone to freely express their themselves however they’d like and present these expressions to the entire world. As social media platforms serve as news outlets for the majority of the population today, it is our job as journalists to make sure the public is receiving the correct information. Although news is spread much more quickly today without the work of journalists, we are still needed for verification.

    As for the Pastor in Florida who burned the Koran as a publicity stunt, his actions may have gone viral even without the effects of media coverage. Although this coverage was widespread and reached those in Pakistan and Afghanistan, the Pastor could have easily uploaded video and images on the internet of his “event.” This content could have very well gone viral, reaching many throughout the world without a single journalist present on the day of his stunt.

    The public have the ability to reach just about anyone in the world today with the use of social media platforms. Journalists must understand however when it is necessary to step in and confirm the facts, verify the situation, and tell a good story.

  2. Kristina Kulyabina permalink

    Seemingly today, it is almost impossible not to mention the words “journalist” and “social media” in the same sentence. Many universities are even adding social media lessons to the curriculum of journalism courses and social media internships have been popping up on a daily basis by companies with old timers desperate for an online version of PR. However, a journalist needs to be careful when utilizing social networks. If the account is solely for work purposes, then does that mean that the journalist must strictly post news updates? What about his/her personal twitter account – will the person get in trouble for expressing an opinion on a political candidate or even who he/she thinks will win the super bowl? I have had this discussion before in which people have said that journalists should not express any biased opinions through social media because the public will judge you for taking a side even though you’re “suppose to be neutral.” It’s almost like us journalists must now censor ourselves instead of the news…doesn’t this seem a little unfair?

  3. This is an interesting topic. I feel that twitter has turned up the competition between journalists over the years. They are all trying to be the first to tweet a story and sometimes a post them before they should. I do however feel that twitter has more upsides than down for journalists. At the end of the day I feel that it comes down to the journalist and their decision-making. They shouldn’t post stories unless they are absolutely sure they have it right. To prevent this from happening in the future maybe newspapers should make their journalist show them the tweets before they post them. I’m not sure if this would be possible though. Maybe the best plan is for journalist not to have his or her own Twitter profile and post with a newspapers twitter profile.
    Twitter is a good tool for journalist when it is used right. It is the easiest way to get news out. My one issue with it is when the journalist use it for personal use. I follow a couple of sports writers on twitter and I love it when they tweet breaking sports news but I hate it when they tweet play by play cemetery of their 7-year old sons basketball game. But like I said Twitters positives out weigh its negatives.

  4. This is definitely an interesting topic: social media’s effect on journalists. The emergence of Twitter and Facebook has definitely added a new dimension to journalism, with many people who aren’t necessarily professional journalists breaking stories. As an example, during the Super Bowl riots at UMass last year after the Patriots lost to the Giants, Steve Fox had us go to Southwest for a class and report what was happening. Many of us used Twitter and took several photos and we ended up being retweeted hundreds of times and many of our photos were used on MassLive. Social media truly gives everyone a voice and offers credibility to those who aren’t professional journalists.

    I do consider social media to be a good, reliable outlet for breaking news stories, but you always have to take it with a grain of salt. If you see multiple tweets from multiple outlets reporting an event, I am more likely to believe that the news is true than if an unverified person randomly tweets it. I do find Twitter especially to be bad at times, because many people want to break the story first, opening them up to being wrong. It is always better to be right than first.

    Stuart raised a point asking if newspapers should make their journalists show their tweets before they post them. While I don’t think they should do that, they could do something similar by creating social networking guidelines. ESPN was one of the first few companies to do this, and their guidelines can be seen here: The guidelines tell ESPN employees to not break news, exercise discretion, and think before you tweet. If any employees violate these guidelines, there will be consequences, including being fired. Providing an outline for employees on what they can and cannot do on social media seems to be the best way to go. What do you guys think of ESPN’s guidelines for their employees?

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