The New York Times (NYT) has issued guidelines for staffers who use Facebook, MySpace, et al.
The bottom line?
Social networking sites can be a great reporting tool. But remember, when you use them, always pretend to be objective!
[O]utsiders can read your Facebook page, and…personal blogs and “tweets” represent you to the outside world just as much as an 800-word article does. If you have or are getting a Facebook page, leave blank the section that asks about your political views, in accordance with the Ethical Journalism admonition to do nothing that might cast doubt on your or The Times’s political impartiality in reporting the news. Remember that although you might get useful leads by joining a group on one of these sites, it will appear on your page, connoting that you “joined” it — potentially complicated if it is a political group, or a controversial group.
Be careful not to write anything on a blog or a personal Web page that you could not write in The Times – don’t editorialize, for instance, if you work for the News Department. Anything you post online can and might be publicly disseminated, and can be twisted to be used against you by those who wish you or The Times ill — whether it’s text, photographs, or video. That includes things you recommend on TimesPeople or articles you post to Facebook and Digg, content you share with friends on MySpace, and articles you recommend through TimesPeople. It can also include things posted by outside parties to your Facebook page, so keep an eye on what appears there. Just remember that we are always under scrutiny by magnifying glass and that the possibilities of digital distortion are virtually unlimited, so always ask yourself, could this be deliberately misconstrued or misunderstood by somebody who wants to make me look bad?
Another problem worth thinking about is how careful to be about Facebook “friends.” Can we write about someone who is a “friend?”…
Keep reading on Poynter.org >
May we translate?
Like any other human beings, New York Times staffers have deeply held views that they feel passionately about that almost certainly affect the way they view the world. You must do everything you can to hide these views from the world, lest someone be able to suggest that they affect how you see things.
(Thanks to Peter Kafka for passing on the Poynter link)