Ethics in the new age

Posted: March 2, 2011 by Karissa Donkin in #7 Ethics

The more technology progresses and the more information we have at our fingertips, the more ethical concerns we seem to have to deal with. Today’s blog is going to be more in-depth on an issue I briefly mentioned in my last post.

It’s impossible to shy away from the internet and social media, the latter of which was not as much a part of our daily lives only five years ago. But as journalists, we must detach ourselves from nostalgia and bravely march forward into the online world.

But as we do this, we have to be conscious about the online persona we’re developing. Business have began to pop up that proclaim to be able to help you frame your online persona or remove negative things from Google about yourself.

I’m not as over-hyped about Facebook privacy as some people. Nor do I feel like there is much about me in the online world that is very scandalous.

But after a while, pieces of your life do begin to accumulate on the internet. When you use Twitter, the bits of your life you share are there for good – even if you delete your tweets. You can make your tweets private, but that kind of defeats the purpose of the whole medium.

I try not to use my Facebook account for journalism (although like many others, I’ve used to interview people before and I’ve more often used it to make contact with someone who I have no other way of getting a hold of when on deadline). But Twitter is another story. I use Twitter to tweet about stories I’m working on or issues I’m interested in. But I also use it to talk about what music I’m listening to, to make fun of things like the Super Bowl and to tell you what I ate for lunch. Of course, I’m not currently tweeting necessarily on behalf of an outlet or as a part of an outlet, so that makes a difference too.

Should I be doing this? Does this discredit me as a journalist? Will my tweets about Usher floating down from the sky at the Super Bowl somehow come back to haunt me in 10 years? Should we have a glimpse at the personalities of the journalists we follow?

There doesn’t seem to be a standard line across the board that media outlets are towing.

Jacques told us that his Twitter username has CBC in it and thus all of his tweets are work related, for the most part. That doesn’t stop Jacques from injecting his personality into his posts with some occasional humour or wit.

Maclean’s must have a different policy altogether. Andrew Coyne tweets about anything and everything, likely not all work related. I enjoy his posts and it doesn’t make me look at his work any differently. Should it? He’s never said anything that I’ve found offensive.

When a journalist on Twitter tweets inaccurate information or something inappropriate, should that reflect back on the outlet? Should journalists have to run their tweets by an editor? Do people who follow these journalists on Twitter separate the person from the journalist or the outlet and should they do this, if the outlet’s name is on their Twitter account?

I personally think doing that would defeat the purpose of Twitter if it was filtered by an editor. I’m not sure we can treat social media like we can treat other mediums, like what goes in a newspaper or on an outlet’s website.

With that said, I’m not sure I have the answer to how much of yourself as a journalist should be in the online world. I don’t think we have to hide ourselves, who we are and what we’re interested in. But I guess it depends on the media outlet and whether you are tweeting on their behalf. Eventually, newsrooms will probably start to develop policies surrounding this, if some already haven’t.

  1. Another interesting note to add to this, although not necessarily ethics-related:

    Some of the sports journalists I follow on Twitter who work for outlets like TSN are tweeting fairly consistently through their workdays. Often, they’re even tweeting on weekends or after hours.

    Is this part of the job description now? How do journalists decide how much time they’re spending on Twitter in a day and do editors care if this takes away from their time to produce full-length pieces of journalism? As we talked about in class, if you’re live-tweeting events from your phone, does that take your attention away from the event at hand, causing you to miss important things?

    I’m not sure I have answers to these questions but they’re definitely important ones to be asking in the 2.0 world.

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