Wick Communications

Can you have an opinion?

In Online media on March 26, 2015 at 3:37 pm

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The question of publishing reporters’ opinions came from @muckrack: “Some journalists of color have been harangued for tweeting personal reactions to #Ferguson while also covering it. Your take?”

First of all, Muck Rack is a sort of social experiment for journalists, bloggers and PR professionals. Among other things, it is a platform for marketing types to find journalists who cover their niche. One of the most interesting things about it, for me, is a regular Monday evening Twitter Q&A. (Follow @muckrack and the Monday hashtag is #muckedup.) The question above was one of those bandied around on Monday.

As you can see, the responses were varied. That wouldn’t have been the case 10 years ago, when an overwhelming number of journalists would have suggested their brethren keep their opinions to themselves. That was the prevailing wisdom, well, forever. Until recently.

That began to change with the advent of social media. In part, that is simply correcting a silly bit of pretension from our pompous past. We all have opinions. Our readers know it. Just admit it already. It also changed simply because Web 2.0 was just so ubiquitous. It was becoming difficult for reporters to pretend to be opinion-less.

I think there is a logical middle ground. …

I would be really careful commenting on ongoing stories that I’m covering. That just makes sense. If you tweet that the mayor is a jerk, it might mean he won’t call you back on Monday, and it will call into question the veracity of your reporting. Same goes for reporting from and commenting about Ferguson, in my opinion.

In other instances, I would choose my words carefully when I do choose to comment. No profanity. Forget the snark. But I think it’s OK to be engaged and to reach out to tech-savvy readers online.

And forget the 21st century proclamation that “my tweets are my own and don’t reflect my employer, etc., etc.” Ours are hats you don’t take on and take off. The president can’t just say, “Speaking not as the president but just as a guy, I think we should give the Palestinians some land…” Doesn’t work that way for him and it doesn’t work that way for us.

It’s a tricky question, as @GretchenKraft suggests. Thoughts?

Clay

 

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