Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Line Between Personal & Professional in a World of Social Media Outlets

Kelsey Pinkard

Mixing Business with Pleasure

"Twitter, blogs, Facebook, etc. also provide the opportunity for reporters and editors to come out from behind the institutional voice of the paper- a voice that is less and less trusted- and to become human. Of course, they should mix business and pleasure." - Jeff Jarvis, blogging and online media pioneer

Although I think Jeff Jarvis provides a good argument for “mixing” your personal and professional lives in the journalism field, I do not completely agree with him. In the world of ethics, one of the most important values is to keep business and pleasure separate. I know things aren’t the way they used to be; the Internet has changed the way we share and receive information. It’s an incredible phenomenon that has forever changed the way we communicate, and it has positively affected people everywhere.

However, the wonderful World Wide Web has also created a lot of problems for journalists. There are so many ways for us to leak a story without even knowing it, to get caught in a conflict of interest, to screw up a story because our info isn’t credible, and so on.

Journalism is virtually everywhere, and it’s become difficult for us as journalists to separate our personal and professional lives. Why? The social media outlets on the Internet allow us to intertwine business and pleasure.

The Power of Facebook

This video demonstrates how much social media outlets (such as Facebook) have changed the world and the way people communicate.

Facebook influences the way we think. We rely on it as not only entertainment, but also as a networking tool and a news source.

Using Facebook as a Source- NOT a Good Idea

When I want to find out someone’s address, phone number, or personal interests, I log in to Facebook. I do not call the person whose information I’m searching for, I simply “creep” on their profile.

Recently, a friend of mine was writing a story about a local musical and used information the director had posted on his Facebook to quote him. My friend and the director of the show are Facebook friends and know each other well. However, was it ethical for my friend to use a Status Update as a quote for her story? Furthermore, was it okay for her to obtain information about the show and its cast on Facebook?

In my opinion, the answer is no. Since when is Facebook a reliable source of information? Anyone can post anything on Facebook- you can create a fake account with completely fictional information or even steal someone’s identity and create a profile pretending to be that person. A “cyber person” is not a credible source of information. Someone’s Facebook wall or profile are not good places to find information about a person, event- anything!

Another ethical issue in this situation is the fact that the information in my friend’s story about the musical may have been influenced because of the fact that she knows the director of the show. Writing the story could potentially have been a conflict of interest, and she may have accidentally released information that was false or that did not clearly represent the show and its cast members.

Why It's Hard for Us to Separate

Conflicts between a journalist’s personal and professional lives arise often, because it is our job to communicate with the public. The “public” includes our friends, our families, our coworkers- EVERYONE. We are responsible for networking ourselves, and what better way to do it than becoming FB friends with as many people as possible?! We are responsible for telling the truth, and doing so is easier if we rely on credible sources who may be our friends.

How to Be Trustworthy Journalists

As journalists, already we are often not trusted. So it’s our duty to share information that is truthful, unbiased, and accurate. We may think social networking makes our jobs easier, and in some ways it probably does. We may think that sometimes mixing our personal and professional lives is okay, but in most cases it’s not. When striving to be trustworthy and credible professionals, we must keep in mind that Facebook and other social media outlets can be dangerous.