TODAY’S world of online lives and social media networking throws up new challenges in the context of journalistic ethics, credibility, and how an individual’s behavior reflects upon that of the organization with which they are employed. Increasing media organizations have accordingly crafted policies codifying employees’ use of social media and the internet. Given the mass outreach of the internet and the fact that anything expressed online can become part of public discourse, news organizations must ensure that employees use social media thoughtfully and refrain from doing anything that would undermine their news organization’s credibility. Nevertheless, social media offers remarkable opportunities that must be mined to benefit the organization and employees.
So, the following is the social media policy applicable to all CarryShine Group of Newspapers employees.
Use social media to promote your work and that of your organization.
The internet offers remarkable opportunities to engage with readers and commentators directly. Please always use appropriate language, tone, and delivery, and then you can stop getting into protracted exchanges.
The rules of ethics, balance, and objectivity are the same online as in print or offline.
CarryShine staffers must operate online the same way as they would offline. Do not post — even on a private site or in a private exchange — anything you would not want to be attributed to you in print that would embarrass you professionally or personally or reflect poorly upon your employer. Always be mindful of fact and objectivity and appropriate language and tone. Do not post anything — photographs or video included — that could be perceived as reflecting political, racial, sexist, religious, or other bias or favoritism.
You can operate on the assumption that anything you write online can and will at any time become public.
This should be the rule even on accounts that aren’t directly linked to CarryShine, and on personal pages such as Facebook or Twitter because the electronic trail we leave, unlike verbal conversations, can become subject to public scrutiny at any time. Privacy settings change constantly, hackers exist, and what you write (or may have written long ago) can be used against you or your organization. Employees should be able to publicly defend an opinion or other comment, even on a private page. Please always make sure to clearly distinguish between the accounts you hold in a professional and personal capacity, with the former stating that you are not representing your media group; however, even then, always follow the rules of appropriate behavior.
Furthermore, monitor what other people post on your page, in which context you are being tagged, and keep an eye on what is being said about you.
Give your organization the scoop or breaking news first, not Facebook or Twitter.
Follow the procedure if you have a new story or a different angle. The editorial pipelines are slower than your smartphone, but never forget that any news you gather is rightly owed to CarryShine first. Once the news item has been published on CarryShine and CarryShine.com, include links to CarryShine.com while commenting.
Beware of perceptions and how different segments of society, home and abroad, will receive your story or comment.
Offer clear disclaimers to avoid suspicions of conflict of interest. Make it clear when you are endorsing something or whether you’re just passing the news along. You might, for instance, retweet something a politician has said to spread the word, but a reader may take it as support for that politician above others. Such issues can be resolved by modifying the tweet or adding a disclaimer such as ‘RTs don’t = endorsements.’
You may follow online groups that lean in just one ideological direction and groups that espouse obscurantist and violent ideologies to obtain information but avoid indulging in debates with these groups.
Verify everything independently, particularly anything seen on a social media website, especially before reporting it elsewhere.
Anyone can put up anything on the internet. Recently, Facebook and other sites were flooded with photos of Buddhist monks standing amidst scores of dead bodies, apparently Burmese Rohingya Muslims. Those pictures were from an earthquake in China; the monks had been there for rescue work.
Always double-check and get consent if using material from other people’s pages, especially where they’d reasonably expect privacy.
When Neda Agha Soltan was shot on the streets of Tehran in 2009, someone pulled a photograph from a Facebook page, and that image went viral. But the picture was of another woman, Neda Soltani, a university English teacher. She and the slain girl’s family tried to rectify the error, but it had gone too far. Ms. Soltani became a person of interest to Iran’s secret police and had to flee to Germany as a refugee. She says that error ruined her life.
Please always ensure you’re identified as a journalist, and you can refer to the source while passing something along.
With that, you can avoid misleading readers. Never pretend to be someone else, whether to obtain information or for any other reason. Wherever possible, identify yourself as a CarryShine staffer. And never, ever assume that something you intend to stay private or anonymous will remain that way.
Keep internal deliberations confidential.
The internet is as public as shouting something out on the street. Please keep in mind that you can compromise the credibility of the editorial process. Refrain from commenting on how copy or sources were handled, what was said about them, etc. Ensure you refrain from passing on information while talking to people outside the organization. That can set off damaging rumors or controversies or embarrass the organization.
Must uphold the highest professional and ethical standards and ensure that the information/editorial content they provide is fair, unbiased, and accurate.
CarryShine staffers are encouraged to put up their reports on social media websites such as Facebook or Twitter as published by the newspaper, as well as re-plug the work of their colleagues. This will help raise the organization’s profile and visibility in the online world.