The Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA) this week released a supplement to its code of ethics to guide journalists as they face ethical situations stemming from the use of social media and blogging.
The guidelines are based on the core principles of truth, fairness, accountability and transparency. They address image and reputation preservation as well as the decision-making processes journalists and managers must undergo to decide what will work in their newsrooms. The guidelines take journalists through several questions they can ask themselves as they make use of Twitter, Facebook and blog sources.
For example, when using blog or social media, the new supplement suggests asking questions like:
• What is the source of the video or photograph? Who wrote the comment and what was the motivation for posting it?
• Does the source have the legal right to the material posted? Did that person take the photograph or capture the video?
The new guidelines also offer questions newsrooms should be asking regarding the protocols in place to correct mistakes on social media sites, the copyediting and oversight of material posted and the protocols in place to confirm the truthfulness of photos and video found on Facebook, YouTube and photo-sharing sites.
“These guidelines will be instantly valuable in just about every newsroom across the country,” said RTDNA Chairman Stacey Woelfel.
A team led by Al Tompkins, Poynter Institute Broadcast/Online Group Leader, wrote the guidelines. The guidelines were created through RTDNF’s Journalism Ethics Project sponsored by a grant from the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation.