Questions And Answers About Journalists’ Opinions In Social Media

6 Feb

STEVE BUTTRY, DIRECTOR of Community Engagement and Social Media for Digital First Media, recently wrote about reporters expressing opinions in social media.

From The Buttry Diary, Feb. 6, 2012:

A reporter asks about tweeting his opinion about the Occupy Oakland protests:

My first impulse was to tweet my personal gut response: that I didn’t understand protests and flag burning in my generation and I don’t now. I also wanted to tweet that once Occupy got violent, that ended the argument for me.

But I had misgivings about whether I should post any kind of opinion at all, so I refrained.

Steve’s response:

I’ll start by reminding you (or informing you, if you haven’t seen them yet) of John Paton’s rules for employee use of social media. John does not mean by these rules that anything goes, just that we want our use of social media to be guided by good journalism ethics (rather than specific social media rules) and don’t want our exploration of new tools to be inhibited by restrictive rules based on fear and ignorance.

Starting from there, my response is based on three main principles:

  1. Opinions are not fundamentally unethical journalism.
  2. Opinions matter, and the place of opinions in journalism is being reassessed on many fronts.
  3. Decisions about using Twitter should be guided by good journalism ethics, not by special rules or practices for Twitter.


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