Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Ethics and Social Media

With everyone plugged into social websites like Facebook or Twitter, ethical dilemmas have been created including whether journalists should be apart of the atmosphere — posting opinions, “friending” sources, “liking” posts or pictures, and choosing to be fans of certain pages.  It bring into question if transparency is the new objectivity?

Each journalist making the decision to “friend” a source or publicize a political opinion by hitting “confirm friend” or “ignore request” button they are choosing what they value more — transparency or objectivity — based on their morals as a journalist. 

In a Neiman report article, Marc Cooper, a journalism professor at the University of Southern California, said new ethics created by online journalism are asking journalists to be transparent.

“What this new ethic asks the reporter to do is to be honest in disclosing his or her point of view, his or her bias, his or her affiliations,” Cooper said. “Then in writing or producing his or her story, make it very clear the perspective from which it has come.”

One could also argue that a journalist a part of social Web sites expresses trust and credibility. In an article by The Guardian, Richard Sambrook, the director of the BBC Global News Division, said transparency in the new media age is what delivers trust.  

In his article Reed Richardson, journalist for Nieman Reports, said a reporter could be scrutinized if his or her political opinions are publicized.

“If this reporter discloses his vote or drives a car with Obama bumper sticker, his work is considered to be tainted,” he said.

Reporters should strive to protect their free speech and join social Web sites, but at in doing so they are losing personal privacy with each post and decision they make on their personal site. When reporters reveal information about their beliefs, like political views or get tied up in a conflict of interest, the public will be able to assess that information because of its accessibility. 

Since no one is going to choose not to be involved in the fastest growing communication outlet, a solution would be to have companies regulate the kind of information shared. Employers should create policies that limit the extend of use of a social Web site declaring that a journalist should not “friend” a source and be careful of what one posts. 

When using a website like Facebook, a journalist should strive to act independently by avoiding conflicts of interest and remain free of associations and activities that could compromise integrity or damage their credibility. With an influx in social outlets popping up everyday, journalists need to determine how to utilize them by staying true to their morals as a journalist and strive to be objective in writing any piece of journalism. 

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