Social media and blogs are important elements of journalism. They narrow the distance between journalists and the public. They encourage lively, immediate and spirited discussion. They can be vital news-gathering and news-delivery tools. As a journalist you should uphold the same professional and ethical standards of fairness, accuracy, truthfulness, transparency and independence when using social media as you do on air and on all digital news platforms.
Truth and Fairness
Social media comments and postings should meet the same standards of fairness, accuracy and attribution that you apply to your on-air or digital platforms.
Information gleaned online should be confirmed just as you must confirm scanner traffic or phone tips before reporting them. If you cannot independently confirm critical information, reveal your sources; tell the public how you know what you know and what you cannot confirm. Don’t stop there. Keep seeking confirmation. This guideline is the same for covering breaking news on station websites as on the air. You should not leave the public “hanging.” Lead the public to completeness and understanding.
Twitter’s character limits and immediacy are not excuses for inaccuracy and unfairness.
Remember that social media postings live on as online archives. Correct and clarify mistakes, whether they are factual mistakes or mistakes of omission.
When using content from blogs or social media, ask critical questions such as:
What is the source of the video or photograph? Who wrote the comment and what was the motivation for posting it. Does the source have the legal right to the material posted? Did that person take the photograph or capture the video? Has the photograph or video been manipulated? Have we checked to see if the metadata attached to the image reveals that it has been altered?