Mediacafé #7: Twitter can cost you your job Archive
Does a newsroom need social media codes?
Tuesday 11 October 2011 - 19:30! Attention: starting hour has changed!
Beurskafee, Beursschouwburg | A. Ortsstraat 20-28, 1000 Brussels
Journalists can get fired for their behaviour on twitter when they voice personal opinions, do not follow the editorial code or when they enter into a controversial debate with their readers. To avoid this, newsrooms formulate guidelines regarding the use of social media. Do these guide lines really solve the problem? A debate with Dean Wright, former Global Editor Ethics, Innovation and News Standards at Reuters and Editor in Chief at MSNBC, Alexander Pleijter, professor New Media and Innovation at the Rijksuniversiteit Groningen and driving force behind The New Reporter, and Olaf Koens, freelancer and twitter fanatic. Xavier Taveirne (Radio 1, VRT) moderates the debate.
More and more journalists are being fired because of their twitter behavior. Recently CNN''s Bureau Chief Octavia Nasr was sacked when she made a political statement about the Hezbollah leader Sayyed Mohammed Hussein Fadhallah, shortly after his death. To avoid this, newsrooms formulate guidelines regarding the use of social media. The renowned newspaper The Guardian for instance, has a set of guidelines at its disposal. The press agency Reuters added a chapter to its journalistic handbook: Reporting from the Internet and using social media.
However, not everyone is convinced that such guidelines have a ‘virtuous' effect. According to Alexander Pleijter of De Nieuw Reporter, social media codes do not solve the problem. He states that we will look back one day and laugh about these codes, just as we now make fun of the fact that once, news anchors during a news broadcast weren't accepted in The Netherlands. The reason being that they could interfere with the objectivity of the news.
The use of social media in newsrooms raises a couple of interesting questions.
Can journalists break the news via Twitter?
What to do with a scoop? Must the journalist keep the scoop for himself until his employer ‘officially' brings the news or can he break it via Twitter? And what about a freelance journalist? When the newsroom decides not to bring a certain news fact, can a journalist do that on his own account? And what is more important: the news or the urge of a journalist to distinctly profile himself?
Can journalists voice personal experiences and opinions, even if they do this on their personal accounts or web pages?
It is clear that a journalist at CNN doesn't get much leeway. However, it can be beneficial when a journalist takes a stand, but where must we draw the line? Can a science journalist become a fan of a pharmaceutical company on Facebook? It might be a backdoor for PR people to charm that journalist. And what about religious and political opinions? Can a journalist be friends with a politician on Facebook?
Can journalists comment on the opinions of their audience?
The strong feature of social media is that it gives journalists the possibility to debate with their audience, to get to know their opinion and what they want. But does a journalist have time for all this and if so, when should he do this?
Can journalists go undercover in social networks?
Must a journalist make his identity known on Facebook pages (for example about binge drinking or online poker), when he or she is trying to obtain more information? In 2004, a judge lashed out to the makers of a Telefacts story about a journalist who had taken the identity of a thirteen-year-old girl in order to track down pedophiles, stating the practice was highly excessive in nature and conducted in a questionable journalistic method.
Organization: deBuren, Fonds Pascal Decroos, Mediakritiek.be and VVOJ
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