Editor & Publisher has an interesting look at how newspaper editors are reacting to the use of popular social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook by their journalists. As you can imagine, newspaper ethics policies for social networking sites are all over the map...
From Editor & Publisher:
The Los Angeles Times issued a list of guidelines in March, while The Wall Street Journal gained attention in May when it expanded its conduct guidelines to include a host of online-related restrictions, including warnings not to "friend" confidential sources or get into Web- related arguments with critics. The Washington Post, just a day later, did the same (as I observe in my story on p. 5). But not everyone is laying down the law on Twitter. Some papers want staffers to take a casual, open approach, while others admit they aren't sure how to police the social media outlets and still allow them to be useful.
Bill Keller, executive editor of The New York Times, started tweeting, albeit sparingly, last month. "I have asked people to use common sense and respect the workplace and assume whatever they tweet will be tied to the paper," he told me. "Even when they are tweeting personal information to their followers, they are still representing the New York Times."
The Washington Post's new policy on social networking sites, created in mid-May, asks users to avoid "verbal fisticuffs with rivals or critics." The paper's policy adds: "In general, we expect that the journalism our reporters produce will be published through The Washington Post, in print or digitally, not on personal blogs, Facebook or MySpace pages, or via Twitter or other new media. We are happy to have reporters post links to their stories or other Post material.
The Los Angeles Times "social media" guidelines make clear that staffers are always representing the paper when they engage in online activities: "Assume that your professional life and your personal life merge online regardless of your care in separating them. Don't write or post anything that would embarrass the LAT or compromise your ability to do your job."
When I asked Associated Press Director of Media Relations Paul Colford about Twitter and Facebook policies, he cited a portion of the AP's "news values and principles," which states: "Anyone who works for the AP must be mindful that opinions they express may damage the AP's reputation as an unbiased source of news."
Perhaps news outlets (print/broadcast/online) should post their ethics policies online. Not just policies as they relate to social networking but the policies that guide reporters in general.
Over the years we've seen numerous examples of media figures breaching the tenants of basic journalistic integrity if not their employers' stated ethics policies. If editors are too busy to police their own reporters, I'm sure the American people would be happy to pick up the slack – on Twitter, on Facebook, on the news pages or on the air.
If you use the social networking site Facebook, be sure to join the official Media Matters page and those of our senior fellows Eric Boehlert, Jamison Foser, and Karl Frisch as well. You can also follow Media Matters, Boehlert, Foser, and Frisch on Twitter.
A Wall Street Journal article falsely suggested that the Obama administration's policies resulted in the government takeovers of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and AIG. In fact, the Bush administration took over those institutions in September 2008.
A Wall Street Journal op-ed by David Gratzer falsely equated "a new public insurance program" supported by "Congressional Democrats" to the Canadian "single-payer" system. In fact, President Obama has explicitly rejected a Canadian-style system and supports a "public plan" option alongside private insurance plans.
Criticizing the Obama administration, a Wall Street Journal column included the false claim that the Bush administration never touted its initiatives in terms of how many jobs would be "saved or created." In fact, Bush's Agriculture Department did so repeatedly.
Kimberley Strassel falsely claimed President Obama "decreed" that debate over Sonia Sotomayor "be a discussion primarily about Judge Sotomayor's biography, not her qualifications." In fact, in his speech announcing Sotomayor's nomination, Obama spoke extensively about her qualifications.
In articles on the political "battle" over Judge Sonia Sotomayor's nomination, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal omitted the context for remarks she made in 2001 and 2005, even though both articles included a response from the White House saying Sotomayor's comments are being taken "out of context."
The Wall Street Journal and USA Today advanced conservative efforts to portray Sonia Sotomayor as an activist judge by misrepresenting a remark she made about the difference between district and appeals court justices.
The Wall Street Journal cited only "the liberal-leaning Center for American Progress Action Fund" to support a claim that a tax credit in a Republican alternative health-care reform proposal "wouldn't cover half of the cost of the average family's health-care premiums," but ignored relevant data from the Kaiser Family Foundation supporting the claim.
The Wall Street Journal published an op-ed co-written by Galen Institute president Grace-Marie Turner promoting congressional Republicans' health care reform proposal without noting that the Galen Institute reportedly receives funding from the pharmaceutical and medical industries.
In two days, a Republican strategist's baseless suggestion that Nancy Pelosi could fall victim to "a coup in Congress" spread from his Politico.com op-ed to all three cable news channels, TheFoxNation.com, a New York Times blog, and the print edition of The Wall Street Journal.
None of five major national newspapers has reported on a Daily Beast article reporting that Vice President Dick Cheney's office "suggested waterboarding an Iraqi prisoner, a former intelligence official for Saddam Hussein, who was suspected to have knowledge of a Saddam-al Qaeda connection."
In his Wall Street Journal column, Karl Rove claimed that because Nancy Pelosi was allegedly "informed" of the Bush administration's use of enhanced interrogation techniques, her non-action made her "an accomplice to 'torture.' " The claim is inconsistent with the definition of "accomplice," as well as with the reality of Pelosi's ability to affect the Bush administration's actions in any way.
Wall Street Journal editorial board member Kimberley Strassel trotted out the oft-repeated falsehood that President Obama is on a "drive to socialize health care," a charge that echoes the baseless attacks conservatives have made against other progressives' health care reform proposals since the 1930s.
An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll question advanced the false claim that a secret-ballot election is currently required before workers can form a union. In fact, under current law, a secret-ballot election is required only when an employer demands it; an employer can recognize a union if it is supported by a majority of workers.
In his Wall Street Journal column, Karl Rove distorted a statement by President Obama to falsely suggest Obama is now considering "a universal health care system like the European countries."