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off-camera reporter: One who gathers news for television but does not report on the air. News Reporting & Writing (Eighth Edition) by the Missouri Group. Copyright 2005. Reproduced by permission of Bedford/St. Martins.

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5 social media tips for journalists

  1. Think before you post. One of the secrets to social media’s success is how easy it has become to participate. But that also makes it easy to respond or repeat before you have thought through the consequences. Whether we think it is fair or not, other media will use your social media output as your news organization’s comment on topical stories. And you will play into the hands of your critics unless you take care:
    • Resist the temptation to respond in anger to those you regard as mistaken or ill-tempered
    • Think about how you would feel if your content was cited on the front page of a leading newspaper or website or blog as your news organization’s comment on an issue
    • Don’t suspend your critical faculties. It’s simple to share a link on Twitter, Facebook and other networks but as a journalist if you repeat something that turns out to be a hoax, or suggests you support a particular line of argument, then you risk undermining your own credibility and that of your news organization.
  2. Avoid raising questions about your freedom from bias. Your Facebook profile, Twitter stream or personal blog give clues to your political and other affiliations and you should take care about what you reveal. A determined critic can soon build up a picture of your preferences by analyzing your links, those that you follow, your “friends”, blogroll and endless other indicators. We all leave an “online footprint” whenever we use the Web and you need to think about whether your footprint might create perceptions of a bias toward or against a particular group.
    • Think about the groups that you join — it may be safest not to join a group or to follow participants on just one side of a debate
    • Think about using “badges” expressing solidarity with some cause
    • Think about whether it would be best to leave your political affiliation out of your Facebook profile
    • Think about whether you link only or mainly to voices on one side of a debate
    • Think about making use of the privacy settings on social networks and basic ways in which you can conceal your use of the Web like clearing your cache regularly
  3. Be transparent. We’re in the transparency business and you are encouraged to be open about who you are.
    • On your personal blog or social networking profile make it clear that you are a journalist and that any opinions you express are your own.
    • When you post comments do so under your real name
  4. If you use social networks for both professional and private activity then use separate accounts. Many people are using social networks like Facebook or Twitter both as part of your newsgathering and as part of your personal social networking. In the online world private and professional are increasingly intertwined but you are expected to maintain a professional face at all times in your work and this extends to your use of social media. Put simply, you’re expected to apply standards to your professional use of social media that will probably differ to those you would use for your personal activity. For this reason it’s recommended that you set up separate profiles for your professional and private activity. This is not to say that you should strip out all personal content from your professional streams, but that you should think carefully about what personal content would be appropriate.
    • Use a separate professional account for your newsgathering and professional community-building activity
    • Social networking encourages you to share personal details but don’t overload your professional network with personal content
  5. Seek the permission of your manager before setting up a professional presence on a social networking site.
    • Effective use of social media requires a commitment of time and you should clear this with your manager before you get involved.
    • Effective use of social media may also require you to share a lot of content and you need to be clear that this does not conflict with our commercial objectives. Again, your manager should be consulted on this.
    • Be aware that you may reveal your sources to competitors by using "following" or "friending" functionality on social networks.

Adapted from the Reuters Handbook of Journalism: http://handbook.reuters.com/index.php/Main_Page

For additional guidelines and codes of ethics, go to this link.