Wick Communications

Know when to opine

In Online media on January 3, 2013 at 11:42 am

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The folks at Digital First Media have put together a very thoughtful discussion of when journalists should – and should not – feel free to express themselves across social media platforms. It may not sync entirely with the Wick standards or those put forth by your publisher, but the general tenor is certainly in line with our views. It’s worth a read.

We all understand that we are barraged by media of one form or another 24 hours a day. Rival blogs are riffing off our stories, mom is after your cookie recipe on Facebook, someone has just commented on your latest editorial. Most people feel free to express themselves in these ways and a dozen others. Journalists, though, sometimes have to be careful. You don’t want to say or write anything that will cast you or your employer in the wrong light or nip at the credibility you have built on the job.

The Digital First Media post was written after collaboration from more than a dozen journalists and others with an interest in the company’s journalism. (Digital First began as a medium-sized newspaper company and has made strides to re-engineer its news sites for a digital age, hence the name of the company.)

You’ll see that it begins with guiding principles on which we can all agree. We should seek the truth. Opinions are an important part of what we do. We must build trust and transparency helps us do that. We should avoid conflicts and disclose them. …

For me, the key takeaway after that is that opinion from journalists works best when that journalist has earned what the Digital First team calls “a level of authority.” If you have been on the City Hall beat for six weeks, you probably haven’t earned the right to riff in the same way a veteran reporter has earned the right. The Digital First people make some exceptions for culture and sports beats – after all, every fan has an opinion on, say, the Green Bay Packers.

I think these rules are fairly common sense and not far afield from the state of the art 20 years ago. The tools have changed, but our commitment to fair commentary hasn’t. Even so, it’s a good idea to review our core values and the topic of personal opinions.

Have your feelings about online commentary changed of late? Are you more or less likely to opine on the topic of the day? Do you think you should participate more or less in community discussions?

Clay

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  1. Suffice it to say I’ve been down this road. I recommend if one insists on opining, make sure the privacy settings are set at max.

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