Tag Archives: digital tools

Social Media and You!

Photo by Craig Kohtz, used under Creative Commons license.

If you’re reading this blog, you’re probably aware of how much social media has affected our lives. Whether your poison of choice is a blog, Twitter, Facebook, or even YouTube, chances are you spend quite a bit of time on these platforms, writing, reading, and watching what other people have said. Journalists use social media as much as the next person, yet unlike the general public are being policed and censored as to what they can and cannot write.

As a response to the emergence of social media, most news organizations have created their own policies telling employees guidelines as to how to use these new tools. Social media policies, while necessary, tend to be written in a negative light. According to Mathew Ingram from GigaOM, news organizations “spend so much time talking about how bad social media is for the profession, and so little time talking about what makes it useful”. Policies tend to tell you what you can’t do, rather than what you can, rather than how you can engage with people and get an audience interested in you and your organization.

While this is somewhat understandable – if you’re working as a journalist, there’s a good chance that you’re working with sensitive knowledge that shouldn’t be released to the public. This is the same no matter what job one has; you wouldn’t post sales figures from your retail job online, either.

The Washington Post, among other news outlets, has made their social media policy available online. The policy itself is a laundry list of dos and don’ts. Among other things, they require their journalists to “refrain from writing, tweeting or posting anything […] that could be perceived as reflecting political, racial, sexist, religious or other bias or favoritism”. Essentially, the policy is restricting journalists from having an opinion. Tweets and Facebook posts with opinions must be attributed to another party.

Most of the policy seems to talk down to journalists, treating them as if they leave their judgment and ethics at the door as soon as they log in to their computers. Steve Buttry, a long-time journalist, commented on the policy: “give good journalists 600-plus words of warnings and you pretty much are telling them you don’t trust their judgment”. This is true of not only the Washington Post’s policy, but those of many other news organizations as well.

According to Paul Balcerak, “creating a policy for Twitter that’s separate from the general conduct policy […] is stupid because it establishes different rules where only one set are needed”. He makes a good point; if the social media policy is basically reiterating what your code of conduct states. Journalists already know that they aren’t to talk about sources and sensitive information off the clock – whether this information is shared in person or on Twitter doesn’t matter.

The fact is that journalists are in the public eye, much like athletes, actors, and singers. Their fans – and yes, journalists can have fans – want to see a human side to the person they’re following. Anderson Cooper, a reporter for CNN, has over 4 million followers on Twitter. On this page, he posts a mix of personal tweets (such as photos) and tweets about events he reports on. These tweets follow CNN’s social media guidelines; however, Cooper has established himself as a sort of brand, and the tweets also give some more insight as to who he is as a person. If Cooper did nothing but post links to his own stories, he would likely not have as many followers as he does today.

While social media policies will continue to exist, organizations should take a cue from The Guardian, whose policy list includes only 10 sentences, which encourages reporters to acknowledge readers, and declare personal interest where applicable.

This is how social media should be done. Facebook and Twitter give journalists a unique opportunity to engage with their audience in a way they never have before, and establishing so many guidelines and rules is taking away from that. New media allows news to be collaborative, and journalists need to be allowed more freedom to use social media in a way that will benefit both themselves and their news organization.

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So, you think you can be a Journalist?


Then get blogging.

Blogging is no longer the industry’s dirty little secret. These days, it really seems like everyone – and their mother – has a blog. You can find blogs about pretty much anything, from dissections of the latest episodes of Glee to live updates on wars going on around the world.

But Meghan, you ask, If anyone can have a blog, how is that journalism? That’s an excellent question, and one that has the opinions of professional journalists split.

Since blogs can be run by anyone who can post pretty much anything they want, how can it be considered journalism? Who is a journalist and who isn’t if anyone can write a public blog and have it published?

Chris Pirillo, a media content specialist and founder of LockerGnome, tackles the issue on his own blog. As a new media specialist, he has a slightly different take on the issue than older-school print journalists. He claims that the main distinction between journalists and bloggers are that journalists are being paid, while bloggers “tend to write what they know, think and feel”.

Though Pirillo’s view on blogging and journalism isn’t wrong, he doesn’t take into account the large amount of journalists who are now blogging. While blogs may be more informal than a typical print news story would be and often contain the opinions of the individual writers rather than the larger news organization, they are still being paid to write.

Michael Poh from HongKiat.com thinks that blogging journalists need to look at the fundamentals of journalism and be more consistent with their posts. He outlines six things for them to look at:

  1. Headlines and Leads
  2. Brevity and Clarity
  3. Distinguishing Opinions from Facts
  4. Fact Verification
  5. Editing and Re-Writing
  6. Ethics

For the most part, I agree with this. Journalists, in blogs, still need to pay attention to journalistic standards on fact checking and ethics. It’s a system that allows for there to be distinction between certain types of blogs. Under Poh’s system, your grandmother’s cat-related blog would be considered different than an insider’s perspective on the treatment of workers in a sweatshop. For the most part, Poh’s six points seem fair, and generally would be good guidelines for a journalist to follow.

I’ve yet to find a better look at the journalism vs. blogging debate than Jacob Friedman’s piece over at The Next Web. Friedman has really done his homework; he examines opinions from both sides of the spectrum, ultimately deciding that it’s a combination of the different opinions. One great point he brings up, however:

“…when a blogger tracks down sources, does investigative reporting, and presents the facts clearly and fairly, that is journalism, plain and simple.” –  Jacob Friedman

It’s very hard to argue with this logic. Despite not being published through traditional sources, and perhaps not having the formal training that most journalists get in school, a blogger going through this much trouble to write a post is doing exactly the same thing that a print, television, or radio journalist does every day.

What it comes down to is opinion – as Mat Wright puts it, “ultimately the debate over how to define a ‘blog’ vs an ‘article’ is really between journalists themselves, and the relevance, or not, to their publications and mediums”. Lines are blurred and it’s hard to place everything into neat little boxes. Citizen journalism is on the rise, and

Mat Wright is on to something. Each blog, and each blogger, is different. Since the medium is so new and so diverse, it’s difficult to draw lines just yet. The journalistic landscape is definitely changing, and blogs allow for a greater amount of people to reach information and perhaps try their hand at writing something on their own.

Now that you know about the journalism vs blogging debate, here’s some great blogs for you to get started on.

  1. Journalism 2.0 is written by Mark Briggs, a journalist and author who looks and posts about the changing landscape of journalism as well as gives advice for people in the field.
  2. Mashable is a great example of how blogging and journalism can successfully mesh. The staff at Mashable blog about everything in the fields of technology and social media, two very important things that are changing the current journalistic landscape.
  3. Digidave is run by young journalist David Cohn, who has written for a ton of reputable places such as Wired and The New York Times. He’s a really interesting writer and is working to change the way media is consumed on mobile phones.

Happy blogging!

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