Dispatches from the living amongst journalism's walking dead

Social Media Guidelines to Live By

Personally, I’m not a big fan of social media policies. While I recognize a lot of companies need to have these policies in place to cover their butts in court, I generally frown upon anything that gives journalists any excuse to not communicate openly with sources and/or readers via social media.

So this isn’t a social media policy. It isn’t sanctioned by any bosses or lawyers or governing bodies – and I think it’s just right. Take that for what you will.

10 Social Media Guidelines to Live By

  1. Follow the Golden Rule with social media content. Don’t use anyone’s stuff without getting permission and giving credit – you’d want that, right?
  2. As with anything else, make sure you verify news from social media before running with it (or even re-tweeting it). Think of social media as a tip generator, not a reporter.
  3. Make corrections quickly – and don’t try to hide them. Your Twitter/Facebook followers will notice – and they will quickly forgive mistakes so long as you are transparent.
  4. If you don’t know something, just say so. It’s OK – and someone may have the answer you need.
  5. Always remember: The Internet is public and permanent. Everything you say – even what you think is private – could be found and documented. Act accordingly.
  6. Furthermore, if you wouldn’t say it on air or in a story, don’t say it at all.
  7. You don’t have to get special social media accounts just for work. Many journalists (myself included) use one account to span both worlds. Not everyone is comfortable with that, so it’s your call.
  8. Even if you have separate social media accounts for work, keep your profession in mind. To the law (and to readers and sources) you are always a journalist in everything you do.
  9. Friending, liking and following may sound like chummy words, but these are things you need to do to get info from sources on social media. If you think it might make you look biased, put a notation on your page/bio that says why you do it.
  10. Immediacy is part of the fun and news value of social media, but no post is so urgent as to not need a second look. Read and think before you post.

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