Reporters And Social Media: Do Newsrooms Need Rules?
I was somewhat surprised to learn that the New York Times doesn’t have a written policy to guide its reporters through the sometimes murky waters of social media.
In an interview with the Poynter Institute’s Jeff Sonderman, Times’ associate managing editor for standards Phil Corbett explains that the overarching goal was not to discourage or hamper reporters from embracing social media as a tool. Too many rules might stifle innovation, Corbett said.
At the same time, Corbett said, reporters “need to realize that social media is basically a public activity, it’s not a private activity, and that people will know that they work for the Times, that they are Times journalists, and will identify them with the Times. And so they should just keep that in mind and be careful not to do anything on social media that would undercut their credibility.”
Corbett adds that so far, “this approach seems to be working for us. People have been smart about it, and thoughtful.”
There’s no shortage of examples of reporters who haven’t been “smart” about using social media, often to the detriment of their own careers. At the same time, there are plenty of journalists — particularly those on the education beat — that have effectively incorporated Twitter and Facebook into their repertoire.
For the education reporters reading this: How big a part does social media play in your beat coverage? Does the superintendent of the local district follow your tweets? Have you found any downside to the immediacy of live blogging? How often have you used Facebook or other social media sites to track down students or teachers?