Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Social Media Ethics

Rachel Link
rl250109@ohio.edu


Social media has become an integral platform of communication in today's society and has changed the way that we as journalists communicate with our audience. It is an important tool for journalistic research, news gathering and reporting.

While many journalists and strategic communication professionals prefer to maintain separate professional and personal social media accounts, there are blurred lines when it comes to the ethics of social media use. Codes of ethics have had to be created in recent years for these new media platforms because social media is so new and always changing. Organizations and companies will most likely have to constantly update their social media guidelines as the media evolves and trends continue to change in our audience.


Objectivity 

There are many questions when it comes to creating codes of ethics for the new media platforms. Stephen Ward of MediaShift poses the question of whether or not journalists should remain objective on social media platforms.

Social media is a more personal form of communication that results in more transparency than traditional media forms. Does the ethical value of objectivity remain relevant when communicating through social media? Ward thinks it does not. He believes that objectivity is an outdated concept. He thinks that journalists should not strive to eliminate perspective or be perfectly neutral. He thinks that objectivity is about using methods to remain accurate and unbiased. 

I think that social media opens the doors for journalists to be able to participate in discussions with their audiences. It has evolved the way that we communicate with our audiences and allows us to report in real-time so that we can give them the most updated information possible. If we can remain accurate in our information, check our sources, and remain independent in our posts while communicating with our audience and sparking discussion among them, I think that we are using social media ethically.


Professionalism

Every news organization and advertising agency is consistent in their codes of ethics for social media that their staff represent the company in a professional manner online. Any content on your personal or professional accounts should not negatively reflect on the company, as anything posted online therefore becomes public information.

According to NPR's Social Media Code of Ethics, even if a comment or post on your personal social media is meant to be personal, our personal and professional lives overlap when online. Your online behavior represents the organization in which you work for, and you should act the same way online as you would in a public setting.

I do not believe that there will ever be a set of ethical values for the use of social media if the platforms continue to emerge and evolve at the same rate that they have in recent years. Also, social media trends such as what platform is most used by our audience is ever-changing. I think that social media will have to be continually researched before a set of codes can be written for journalists to abide. However, truth, accuracy and independence should always be maintained in the profession, regardless of the medium.

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