THE NEW YORK TIMES (NY Times)
In a world where media is becoming the center of attention, many look past the things that go on behind the scenes in mass communication. News journalists in a print-only world could separate their work and personal lives. As long as they didn’t say the wrong things to the wrong person, they did not have to worry when they left the office.
This all changes with social media. Sites like Facebook and Twitter started as a way to connect people, but have now shifted to sources of news. To someone from my high school, I am Mary Anderson, the girl they had gym class with. But to employers, I could be a future face of their company.
Here is what The NY Times has done to take precautions against this:
NO POLITICAL VIEWS
This includes posts and joining groups.
DON’T EDITORIALIZE IF YOU WRITE FOR THE NEWS DEPARTMENT
You cannot write anything that you could not write for The NY Times.
“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,” New York Times’ Social Media Policy.
BEWARE OF FACEBOOK FRIENDS
You must be careful of accusations of conflict of interest.
“It would not have looked good in the presidential election campaign for a national political reporter to agree to ‘friend’ [Donald Trump], without first making sure to ‘friend’ [Hilary Clinton] too,” New York Times’ Social Media Policy.
REPORTING WITH FACEBOOK
You are allowed to use email addresses and phone numbers found on Facebook to contact sources… except for minors.
ALWAYS CONSULT STANDARDS EDITOR
The NY Times has an editor who takes care of all possible issues. This seems like it would help to give reporters someone to fall back on if they are unsure. This also helps the news’ presence in social media… news reporters wouldn’t post nearly as much if they were scared it could be used against them.
Social Media used to be about expressing yourself as a person to the ones around you. We encourage people to be “themselves”; avoid “cat-fishing“. And we ridicule people for portraying themselves as something “better” for online relationships. Yet, a reporter must portray themselves in a way that would be “better” for the publication. A reporter can’t write, post, or tweet whatever they want. It is no longer a true representation of that person.
But, you cannot shoot the messenger. The NY Times is not making these online standards; they are simply protecting themselves from conflict. I think the employment of a Standards Editor is a great defense against controversy. It also increases the spread of The NY Times’ brand image. You don’t have to rely on just The NY Times social media accounts. You can look at their reporters’ accounts too to understand the personality of the publication.
The NY Times’ social media policy may affect some news reporters negatively, but it is important to take precautions to avoid possible damage of the publication’s brand image.
“Facebook pages often tell a lot about a person’s work, interests, friends, and thoughts, and, as one page leads or links to another, Facebook can help reporters do triangulation on difficult-to-research subjects…But there are a few things to be careful about, nonetheless,” New York Times’ Social Media Policy
note: When I say “better”, I mean by the standards of the person they are trying to please. (i.e. their partner for the relationship; their employer’s publication/reputation for the news reporter)