Journalists and social media: where's the line between public and private?

OTTAWA, April 11 /CNW/ - Where does a journalist draw the line between public and private? Can they? Should they?

As the social networks we use to communicate evolve and increasingly blur personal and professional roles, as newsrooms nudge their journalists into these social spaces, how do journalists set aside biases?

Does the city hall reporter "like" a Facebook page calling for a community playground? Do you follow only one or two candidates for office on Twitter? Does the business reporter not "check in" on Foursquare at their favourite Starbucks?

In its latest report to the Canadian Association of Journalists, the CAJ's ethics advisory committee presents a series of guidelines to help journalists navigate these social spaces. The report was authored by University of King's College assistant professor Tim Currie, media lawyer and Ryerson University and University of Toronto adjunct professor Burt Bruser and Windsor Star business / news editor Ellen van Wageningen.

"The panel recommends reporters build a social media profile that is both personable and professional," Currie said.

The guidelines recommend:

  • Staying as impartial as possible on public issues;
  • Being prepared to publicly acknowledge anything posted online;
  • Being transparent about your identity and your intent;
  • Monitoring the names of friends and followers in social media communities frequently;
  • Taking care in crafting biographical details in the personal profile section of social media services; and,
  • Stating explicitly on blog or social media sites that the opinions are your own.

"Social media is reshaping the way journalists interact with their audiences on an almost-daily basis," CAJ president Mary Agnes Welch said. "These guidelines are a wonderful set of best practices for journalists. Combined with the ethics advisory committee's previous reports on re-tweeting and unpublishing, they form a troika of advice from some of Canada's best journalists on our craft and the internet."

The CAJ is Canada's largest national professional organization for journalists from all media, representing about 800 members across the country. The CAJ's primary roles are to provide high-quality professional development for its members and public-interest advocacy. This year's annual conference is scheduled for May 13-15 at the Sheraton Hotel Ottawa.

SOURCE Canadian Association of Journalists

For further information:

Full discussion paper online - under "ethics committee" at and under "ethics" at Mary Agnes Welch, CAJ president (204) 697-7590, cell (204) 470-8862
Ivor Shapiro, chair, CAJ ethics advisory committee (416) 979-5000 ext. 7195

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