Are journalists hurting their credibility on Facebook?

January 26, 2009

logo_facebookAs student journalists, you are taught to be fair and impartial, to balance your stories with both sides and to reflect diverse viewpoints. Yet as more and more journalists join social networking sites like Facebook, many have become fairly open about sharing their views as private citizens. Steve Myers points out in a story on the Poynter Institute Web site that many journalists expressed joy in their status updates when Barack Obama won the election. The same thing happened on Inauguration Day. Were journalists simply exercising their right to free speech and right to be engaged citizens?  Or can a journalist’s comments on Facebook hurt his or her credibility? Is there a perception problem if nothing else? Does it make a difference if the journalist covers politics or if the beat he or she covers is unrelated to politics?What if the journalist is an editor?  Kelly McBride, also of Poynter, worked with the newsroom at the Roanoke Times to develop an ethics guideline for journalists using social networks.  She said it was a thorny issue. And some might argue that it’s better to be transparent about your personal views as long as you are committed to fairness in your reporting. What do you think?  Follow the links and read both Poynter stories. Then answer my questions and tell me what you think in the comments section below.  Do you agree with the ethics guidelines? Post your answers by the beginning of class on Thursday, Jan. 29.