With the start of national Journalism Ethics Week, now is a perfect time for a review of our professional standards. While ethics is a daily review and execution, the last week of April each year is the time we set aside to mark the importance ethics play in our profession. Ethics matter every day, in every story, so let’s recalibrate our efforts beginning this week.
This year’s theme is Emerging Ethics: Best Practices for New Technology. Good choice since journalists struggle most with how to apply ethics to new forms of journalism.
As a service to Kiplinger readers, I’m sharing some of the highlights from the Social Media Ethics presentation I update and share each April during Kiplinger Fellowship Week. And, I’m sharing a number of sites you should visit to deepen your understanding of standards via codes of ethics and statements of ethical principles.
Keep this in mind when engaging in social media ethics:
- Social media wasn’t invented with journalists in mind. It was invented for ordinary people who treat information and news values in a much different manner than trained journalists.
- Journalists took up social media so they could better engage audiences, develop sources for reporting, push news content into an easier and more widely used medium and dwell amongst the populace.
- Was there ever any expectations that social media communities would conform to journalism standards?
What journalists soon realized was the community ethical standard for sharing information and engagement didn’t meet their standards (verification, sourcing, balance and fairness and accuracy.) The question is, how would journalists respond?
What are reasonable expectations for social media journalism?
- We will make sure the truth always triumphs.
- We will minimize harm to others.
- We will always act responsibly and professionally.
- We will be accountable for our mistakes.
- We will avoid conflicts foremost and then be transparent when we can’t avoid.
- We will verify information we produce and take from other outlets/sources.
- We will be fair in treatment, balanced reporting.
- We will avoid stereotyping.
Questions worth asking in your newsrooms, from situational to overarching ethics:
- Would you tweet something you wouldn’t put into print or in a broadcast?
- Does your sourcing standards for social media differ from traditional?
- Is speed a factor in good reporting? Is being first important?
- Is context and perspective important?
- Does your competition drive your decisions?
- Is privacy a greater, lesser concern?
- Should social media operate under a different set of standards that reflect the community temperament and not journalism?
- Is truth, independence, reducing harm and accountability still relevant? What else? What isn’t?
- What becomes of journalism if we change ethical standard for social media purposes?
- What are the obligations of journalists with regards to standards?
Lastly, check out these helpful sites for codes of ethics from the Society of Professional Journalists, Online News Association, Associated Press Managing Editors, American Society of Newspaper Editors, National Press Photographers Association and Radio, Television, Digital News Association.