Don’t Fear the Bird

Ever heard the saying “a little bird told me”? Well, that phrase is no longer figurative.

Social media sites like Twitter have changed the communication game. Up to date information no longer comes from police radios or anonymous phone calls, but rather from savvy posts and tweets.  In order to stay current, news organizations must jump on the social media bandwagon or risk being left behind.

source: jiscrsc.ac.uk

The question then becomes: How should news organizations use social media? Many news organizations like The Canadian Press and CBC have put policies in place limiting what their journalists can and cannot do on social media. These policies include being smart about what one is posting and remembering that the traditional rules of journalism still apply online, which are both reasonable. However, it has been argued that the social media policies of news organizations like Bloomberg and the Toronto Star are too excessive. Their policies include not discussing developing stories and not responding to readers. If a journalist cannot respond to a reader, then there is no use in engaging in social media.

As one can see, social media has caused quite a rift in the journalism profession. Instead of focusing on what journalists cannot do on social media, news organizations should focus on what journalists can do.  In a blog post, journalist Matthew Ingram listed 6 things that journalists should do on social media:

  • Talk to people
  • Reply when you are spoken to
  • Re-tweet others
  • Link to others
  • Admit when you are wrong
  • Be human

If journalists follow this list, they will gain the trust of their readers and their news organization will greatly benefit because it will be viewed as modern and relevant. Unfortunately, many news organizations ban some of these items, and that needs to change. Social media editors in Canadian newsrooms said that they want their audience to know that there is a “real person” behind their news organization’s social media accounts. That should be the goal of all news organizations.

source: Kate Rosman’s Twitter account (@katierosman)

Journalists should by all means use their social media accounts to promote their own and/or their news organization’s content, stories, and videos. However, they should also be allowed to have some fun, within good reason, by engaging with their followers and expressing their opinions on certain matters, so long as those opinions do not spoil their reputation or integrity. After all, journalists should be human, but not stupid. Therefore, journalists must respect the codes of conduct imposed by their organizations if they want to keep their jobs, but they should be able to express themselves freely while still remaining professional.

For any of you budding journalists who may be new to Twitter, here are 10 tips to get you on your way. Tweet, tweet, tweet!

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