SOCIAL MEDIA: Best practices
For journalists, social media are tools, not toys.
Traditional standards for accuracy, ethics and professionalism fully apply online.
■ You’re a journalist 24/7.
■ There is no distinction between a personal and a professional account. While it’s fine to maintain a separate account for work-related matters, remember that any account that bears your name is representative of you and your publication.
■ Be careful about offering opinions and taking stands in personal posts. They can haunt you.
■ Expressions of partisanship are unacceptable. You know about putting political bumper stickers on your car, right? Same principle.
■ When using social media to gather news, make sure you identify yourself as a journalist.
■ Before you press the button, make sure your facts are right – and, also important, that your post is free of spelling and grammar issues. Errors reflect badly on you, and on all of us.
Break news on the website, then on Twitter.
■ It’s important to be fast, but it’s far more important to be accurate.
■ Post breaking news on WKUHerald.com for the Herald, or WKUTalisman.com for the Talisman – even if it’s just a sentence.
■ Use a brief Twitter dispatch to link to the story.
■ Update the website post quickly as a breaking news event develops.
■ Follow up major developments with tweets linking back to the updated story.
Assume everything you write online will become public.
■ Be aware of perceptions.
■ Communicate and politely debate people in social media, but know when to just let it go.
Use social media to engage with readers, but always be professional.
■ Watch your mouth. Do not use language that could be construed to be libelous, discriminatory, indecent, profane or offensive. Not even if you think you’re being funny. Especially if you think you’re being funny.
Independently authenticate anything found on a social networking site.
■ Verify, verify, verify if you think you’re about to post something that’s significant news. Cautionary tales abound from journalists who caused unnecessary panic with their tweets or posts. People will believe what you say. Information – right or wrong – can spread faster than you can blink your eyes.
■ Be careful whom you retweet. Do you reasonably trust them? Really?
■ Always look at what you link. If you include a link – or retweet someone else’s link – look at it first to make sure you trust it and that its association with your name wouldn’t embarrass you or WKU Student Publications.
If you make a mistake…
■ Acknowledge your error and correct it promptly. Leave the erroneous post up as a show of transparency to your audience.
■ Deleting a tweet or Facebook post does not erase it. Everything posted online lives on forever in a cache somewhere. Everything.