When Personal and Professional Collide: Ethics in Social Media

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  • For most of the 20th century, journalism’s codes of ethics did the job. Though you could argue that they were honored in the breach more often than the observance, they were widely accepted as effective. But the birth of the Web in the 1990s threw a wrench in the ethical works. What I want to discuss today is how the rise of social media is profoundly changing the ethical landscape for us as journalists and editors. The goals of ethical journalism haven’t changed: we still want our readers to have as clear and comprehensive view of the facts as possible. But the guidelines for reaching that goal are changing, and rapidly. My aim here is not to tell you what the new guidelines are, but to suggest a basis for thinking about what those guidelines should be both for you personally and for our profession at large.\n
  • My ironic epigram for today is this: You don’t have to be an emotionless robot, but you need to act like one. That is, you do have a heart, but you have to pretend you don’t. \n\nThis quote concernsTom Bowles, a freelance NASCAR writer for Sports Illustrated, who was fired last February for briefly applauding the unprecedented Daytona 500 victory of 20-year-old Trevor Bayne. The message here is pure traditional-media ethics, that no matter what you think or feel personally, you must not show it professionally.\n
  • Most traditional codes of ethics expect editors not to allow their personal preferences and opinions to enter into their published work. There is a wall erected between the personal and the professional, and between private and public. Journalists often can’t own stocks in the companies they cover, give any appearance of partiality, express their own political views, and so on. Reporters and editors, in essence, are hidden behind a persona. There must be distance between them and the events and people they cover.\n
  • But here’s the problem nowadays with that ethical premise: Whether we like it or not, we increasingly live in public. It is getting much harder not to reveal that we actually do live in the world we report on, that we do interact with the people we cover, and that we do have feelings and opinions about them.\n
  • The idea that privacy is steadily declining in the online era isn’t a new concept, really--Scott McNealy of Sun Microsystems famously said it more than ten years ago. I’m not sure privacy is completely dead, but it is certainly diminished. As Jack Shafer put it recently on Slate.com, Twitter--and social media along with it, I would add--”has shrunk private space—or, to be more positive about it, enlarged public space to the size of an NBA arena.”\n
  • So in effect, the private and public, the personal and the professional, are converging. CUNY journalism professor and writer Jeff Jarvis thinks of this split in terms of identity (the first-person expressions of our selves) and reputation (other people’s view of us). If you visualize this concept as a Venn diagram, identity is one sphere, reputation another. The area of overlap is our social media presence. In traditional journalism, these two spheres are mostly or entirely separate. In the social media era, they are increasingly overlapping. In traditional journalistic ethics, the emphasis is on managing your reputation. In social-media-era ethics, the emphasis is much more on aligning your identity with your reputation. \n
  • To put it more simply, the personal you and the professional you are becoming one and the same. And the more that becomes true, the less helpful is a system of ethics based on separating personal and professional identities. \n
  • The convergence of personal and professional driven by social media is raising an enormous number of questions about ethics in journalism. You’ll be happy to know that rather than trying to address them all today, I’m limiting myself to five. (Even that might be too much, in which case I may drop the last one or two.)\n\n\n
  • The convergence of personal and professional driven by social media is raising an enormous number of questions about ethics in journalism. You’ll be happy to know that rather than trying to address them all today, I’m limiting myself to five. (Even that might be too much, in which case I may drop the last one or two.)\n\n\n
  • The convergence of personal and professional driven by social media is raising an enormous number of questions about ethics in journalism. You’ll be happy to know that rather than trying to address them all today, I’m limiting myself to five. (Even that might be too much, in which case I may drop the last one or two.)\n\n\n
  • The convergence of personal and professional driven by social media is raising an enormous number of questions about ethics in journalism. You’ll be happy to know that rather than trying to address them all today, I’m limiting myself to five. (Even that might be too much, in which case I may drop the last one or two.)\n\n\n
  • The convergence of personal and professional driven by social media is raising an enormous number of questions about ethics in journalism. You’ll be happy to know that rather than trying to address them all today, I’m limiting myself to five. (Even that might be too much, in which case I may drop the last one or two.)\n\n\n
  • The potential for conflict between your social media self and your professional self is most dramatic when it results in getting fired. This a risk that any journalist must consider in using social media. Steve Roll is a former ASBPE president and a vocal proponent of editors learning social media. One of his recent blog posts for ASBPE argued that starting your own web site was a good move for your career and your employer. But to get to this point, he had to get past a few worries--including the possibility that he could get fired for it. How real is the risk? Well, as Steve put it, it’s like the murders you hear about on the 11 pm local news. It is such a small risk to any individual, that you shouldn’t let it stop you. But it does happen. In fact, it’s common enough that there’s a word for it.\n
  • And that word is “Dooced.” It comes from the experience of Heather Armstrong, a now well-known blogger who was fired back in 2002 for comments she made about co-workers on her personal website, dooce.com.\n
  • Could it happen to you? I haven’t found any examples from the B2B world, but in the mainstream news media, there are plenty of stories about people getting disciplined or fired for their social media activity. \n\n[ROLL CREDITS] \n\nThis suggests three related causes:\n1. Journalists don’t yet understand social media\n2. Media companies don’t yet understand social media\n3. Journalists and their employers misunderstand social media in very different ways.\nSo the logical question is as follows: [next slide]\n
  • Could it happen to you? I haven’t found any examples from the B2B world, but in the mainstream news media, there are plenty of stories about people getting disciplined or fired for their social media activity. \n\n[ROLL CREDITS] \n\nThis suggests three related causes:\n1. Journalists don’t yet understand social media\n2. Media companies don’t yet understand social media\n3. Journalists and their employers misunderstand social media in very different ways.\nSo the logical question is as follows: [next slide]\n
  • Could it happen to you? I haven’t found any examples from the B2B world, but in the mainstream news media, there are plenty of stories about people getting disciplined or fired for their social media activity. \n\n[ROLL CREDITS] \n\nThis suggests three related causes:\n1. Journalists don’t yet understand social media\n2. Media companies don’t yet understand social media\n3. Journalists and their employers misunderstand social media in very different ways.\nSo the logical question is as follows: [next slide]\n
  • Could it happen to you? I haven’t found any examples from the B2B world, but in the mainstream news media, there are plenty of stories about people getting disciplined or fired for their social media activity. \n\n[ROLL CREDITS] \n\nThis suggests three related causes:\n1. Journalists don’t yet understand social media\n2. Media companies don’t yet understand social media\n3. Journalists and their employers misunderstand social media in very different ways.\nSo the logical question is as follows: [next slide]\n
  • There are hundreds of social media policies from all sorts of companies posted on the Web, and plenty more are added every day. Many large media companies have developed social media policies as well, but they are in a somewhat different class of business, in that publication is their reason for existence. The problem with most of the policies so far is that they tend strongly toward discouraging the use of social media, the expression of individuality, or social interactions with readers. They usually have a lot of good suggestions intermingled with the occasional poison dart. \n\nOne example is Reuters.\n
  • In the Reuters social policy guideline, they accurately note that the divide between personal and professional is narrowing dramatically. \n
  • But that doesn’t mean that Reuters likes that development. They would like to believe that the most disruptive media trend in many decades somehow won’t change their relationship their employees.\n
  • But the fact is, social media doesn’t just change that relationship, it transforms it. As employees, journalists now have more prominent identities and greater autonomy than ever thanks to social media. Increasingly, they are more like free agents than employees, and beyond the control of employers.\n
  • You can see the same dynamic at work in the Associated Press social media guidelines. Here’s a Q&A where the AP tries to explain why they think they have the right to control what employees do on social media. Fairness and impartiality sound good, but should they be used to restrict what employees say and do on their personal social media outlets? \n
  • The News Media Guild doesn’t think so. \n
  • Some publishing executives, though, argue that social media policies for media companies are unnecessary and counterproductive. MIchael Hyatt gives 5 reasons why they are not necessary.\n
  • Some publishing executives, though, argue that social media policies for media companies are unnecessary and counterproductive. MIchael Hyatt gives 5 reasons why they are not necessary.\n
  • Some publishing executives, though, argue that social media policies for media companies are unnecessary and counterproductive. MIchael Hyatt gives 5 reasons why they are not necessary.\n
  • Some publishing executives, though, argue that social media policies for media companies are unnecessary and counterproductive. MIchael Hyatt gives 5 reasons why they are not necessary.\n
  • Some publishing executives, though, argue that social media policies for media companies are unnecessary and counterproductive. MIchael Hyatt gives 5 reasons why they are not necessary.\n
  • John Paton of the Journal Register Corporation is even more succinct than Hyatt. Others, like Greensboro News & Record Editor John Robinson, have one rule: “Don’t be stupid.”\n
  • John Paton of the Journal Register Corporation is even more succinct than Hyatt. Others, like Greensboro News & Record Editor John Robinson, have one rule: “Don’t be stupid.”\n
  • John Paton of the Journal Register Corporation is even more succinct than Hyatt. Others, like Greensboro News & Record Editor John Robinson, have one rule: “Don’t be stupid.”\n
  • Whether or not your employer has social media guidelines, you probably should have your own. Rather than tell you what those guidelines should be, I’ll just ask a few questions.\n
  • Whether or not your employer has social media guidelines, you probably should have your own. Rather than tell you what those guidelines should be, I’ll just ask a few questions.\n
  • Whether or not your employer has social media guidelines, you probably should have your own. Rather than tell you what those guidelines should be, I’ll just ask a few questions.\n
  • Whether or not your employer has social media guidelines, you probably should have your own. Rather than tell you what those guidelines should be, I’ll just ask a few questions.\n
  • One of the leading principles behind any social media policy should be transparency. The point isn’t that impartiality and fairness have lost value, but that without transparency, objectivity is just an empty boast.\n
  • One of the ways journalists strive for transparency is through disclosure statements. On the Wall Street Journal’s All Things Digital website, for instance, each of the writers and editors has posted a disclosure statement. In some cases, as with Peter Kafka, you get the sense that they are searching high and low to find anything remotely like a conflict of interest to reveal. It doesn’t get too personal in his case. \n
  • But in other cases, like Kara Swisher’s, it gets very personal indeed. As she explains in her disclosure statement, she is married to a Google executive, which of course makes covering the tech business tricky. It gets even more personal because hers is a same-sex marriage, which leads her to go on at some length about her opinions on gay rights.\n
  • What’s most interesting about Swisher’s disclosure, though, is the argument she makes for why her conflict of interest is acceptable. She says that what would not be acceptable in traditional print journalism is all right in social media.\n
  • There can be a tendency in new-media circles to take transparency too far. Social media has changed the balance of transparency and objectivity, but it hasn’t eliminated objectivity as an ideal to aim for. Here’s an example of the perils of putting too much emphasis on transparency and not enough on objectivity. \n
  • Henry Blodgett, the publisher of Silicon Alley Insider, suggests that if you disclose your conflicts of interest, you can judge your content on its merits, and not on factors that may or may not bias your coverage.\n
  • But media observer Felix Salmon doesn’t buy Blodgett’s argument. No matter whether you disclose a conflict of interest or not, he says, receiving benefits from the people you cover is a bad idea.\n
  • Social media is necessarily personal. Now, some traditional publications are very good at making social media look like traditional media--which is to say, poorly done, boring social media. But when it comes to forms of real-time journalism, such as liveblogging, it inevitably looks as much personal as professional.\n
  • Even in the midst of events, traditional ethics wants reporters to stand apart from those events and not get personally involved. \n
  • But the nature of real-time journalism makes standing outside of events much harder. If you’re tweeting from an event, for instance, and the event organizers are showing related tweets on stage, as happened in this Paid Content conference, the reporter is suddenly a participant.\n
  • One of the clearest examples of real-time journalism is live blogging. This example from the Guardian’s coverage of the New Zealand earthquake earlier this year is a good example of a live blog. \n
  • But the lack of distance, the immediacy, of the Guardian’s coverage struck some people as inappropriate and unjournalistic. \n
  • But defenders of the liveblog argued that critics misapplied their traditional expectations for a finished journalistic product to something that by its nature must be incomplete, evolving, and, well, personal.\n
  • In social media journalism, you see the person behind the curtain, and you see the pulleys, gears, and switches in action. The transparency of social media makes clear that journalism is NOT a finished product delivered from some godlike entity, but a process, a transactional, conversational work in progress, carried out by flawed human beings who can make mistakes but also correct them.\n
  • As Jeff Jarvis says, this is the nature of online journalism. from http://www.buzzmachine.com/2009/06/07/processjournalism/\n
  • That’s not to say that there are no standards, but that they are necessarily different from those of traditional journalism, or that the ethical emphasis is different. All of these standards are based on the personal and interpersonal relationships that are central to social media. \n
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  • Twelve years later and people are still learning the lesson. \n
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  • photo: crumbling wall? Idea is that the chinese wall may be less necessary when ethics obligations are adopted by all. \n\n\n
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  • So in effect, the private and public, the personal and the professional, are converging. CUNY journalism professor and writer Jeff Jarvis thinks of this split in terms of identity and reputation, of who we are and who people think we are. In traditional journalistic ethics, the emphasis is on managing your reputation. In social-media-era ethics, the emphasis is much more on aligning your identity with your reputation. \n
  • When Personal and Professional Collide: Ethics in Social Media

    1. 1. WHEN PERSONAL & PROFESSIONAL COLLIDE:ETHICS IN THE SOCIAL MEDIA ERA John Bethune B2BMemes.com
    2. 2. Ben Leto: flickr.com/benleto“You don’t have to be an emotionlessrobot, but you need to act like one.” Sports Illustrated Writer Fired for Clapping During Daytona 500, Noah Davis, SportsNewser, March 1, 2011
    3. 3. Traditional journalistic ethics ispredicated on firmly separating thepersonal and private from the professional and public.
    4. 4. But in the social media era, privacy is dying, if not dead.
    5. 5. This is not new. “You have zero Simon Phipps: flickr.com/webmink privacy anyway. Get over it.” --Scott McNealy, 1999
    6. 6. Identity & ReputationAs a result of our “increasing publicness” of social media, identity and reputation are coming closer and sometimes into conflict. -- Jeff Jarvis, Buzzmachine,com, March 8, 2011
    7. 7. The personal you and the professional youare becoming one and the same.
    8. 8. Ethics in Transition
    9. 9. Ethics in Transition• Ifyou have your own personal social media accounts, what are your responsibilities and risks?
    10. 10. Ethics in Transition• Ifyou have your own personal social media accounts, what are your responsibilities and risks?• Do the companies we work for need social media policies?
    11. 11. Ethics in Transition• Ifyou have your own personal social media accounts, what are your responsibilities and risks?• Do the companies we work for need social media policies?• Do editors need their own personal policies?
    12. 12. Ethics in Transition• Ifyou have your own personal social media accounts, what are your responsibilities and risks?• Do the companies we work for need social media policies?• Do editors need their own personal policies?• Is transparency more important than objectivity?
    13. 13. Ethics in Transition• Ifyou have your own personal social media accounts, what are your responsibilities and risks?• Do the companies we work for need social media policies?• Do editors need their own personal policies?• Is transparency more important than objectivity?• Is real-time, process journalism inherently more personal?
    14. 14. Can Social Media Get You Fired?“I had been wanting to start a blog forsome time, but I fretted about . . . allthose stories on the news about peoplewho got fired for writing things on theirblogs.” --Steven Roll 2010
    15. 15. Dooced –verb (internet, slang)Dismissed from ones job as a result of ones actions on the Internet. Heather Armstrong, fired in 2002 for comments she made on her personal website, dooce.com
    16. 16. Could it happen to you?
    17. 17. Could it happen to you?CNN Producer Says He Was Fired for Blogging
    18. 18. Could it happen to you? CNN Producer Says He Was Fired for BloggingPost Editor Ends Tweets as New Guidelines Are Issued
    19. 19. Could it happen to you? CNN Producer Says He Was Fired for Blogging Post Editor Ends Tweets as New Guidelines Are IssuedCNN Fires Octavia Nasr over tweet praising late ayatollah
    20. 20. Could it happen to you? CNN Producer Says He Was Fired for Blogging Post Editor Ends Tweets as New Guidelines Are IssuedCNN Fires Octavia Nasr over tweet praising late ayatollah AP Reporter Reprimanded For Facebook Post
    21. 21. Is the answer acorporate social media policy?
    22. 22. Is the answer acorporate social media policy? Or will it just make things worse?
    23. 23. Reuters gets it right . . .“The distinction between the private and the professional has largely broken down online and you should assume that your professional and personal social media activity will be treated as one no matter how hard you try to keep them separate.”
    24. 24. . . . and wrong“The advent of social media does not change your relationship with the company that employs you”
    25. 25. The Reality:The advent of social media doesn’t just change your relationship with your employer - it transforms that relationship.
    26. 26. Associated Press Q: Why does the AP care or think itshould have a say in what I put on my social networking feed/page? A: We all have a stake in upholding the AP’sreputation for fairness and impartiality, which has been one of our chief assets for more than 160 years.
    27. 27. News Media Guild “Parts of the [AP] policy seem to be snuffing outpeoples’ First Amendment rights of expression by acompany that wraps itself in the First Amendment.” --Tony Winton, Guild president
    28. 28. Michael Hyatt, CEO, Thomas Nelson:5 Arguments Against Social Media Policies
    29. 29. Michael Hyatt, CEO, Thomas Nelson: 5 Arguments Against Social Media Policies1. Your people can be trusted.
    30. 30. Michael Hyatt, CEO, Thomas Nelson: 5 Arguments Against Social Media Policies1. Your people can be trusted.2. Social media are just one more way to communicate.
    31. 31. Michael Hyatt, CEO, Thomas Nelson: 5 Arguments Against Social Media Policies1. Your people can be trusted.2. Social media are just one more way to communicate.3. More rules only make your company more bureaucratic.
    32. 32. Michael Hyatt, CEO, Thomas Nelson: 5 Arguments Against Social Media Policies1. Your people can be trusted.2. Social media are just one more way to communicate.3. More rules only make your company more bureaucratic.4. Formal policies only discourage people from participating.
    33. 33. Michael Hyatt, CEO, Thomas Nelson: 5 Arguments Against Social Media Policies1. Your people can be trusted.2. Social media are just one more way to communicate.3. More rules only make your company more bureaucratic.4. Formal policies only discourage people from participating.5. You probably already have policies that govern behavior.
    34. 34. Journal Register CEO John Paton’s Three Simple Rules for Using Social Media
    35. 35. Journal Register CEO John Paton’s Three Simple Rules for Using Social Media1.
    36. 36. Journal Register CEO John Paton’s Three Simple Rules for Using Social Media1.2.
    37. 37. Journal Register CEO John Paton’s Three Simple Rules for Using Social Media1.2.3.
    38. 38. Do you need a personal social media policy?
    39. 39. Do you need a personal social media policy?• Will you avoid covering the same area as your employer?
    40. 40. Do you need a personal social media policy?• Will you avoid covering the same area as your employer?• Will you tell your employer about your social media activity?
    41. 41. Do you need a personal social media policy?• Will you avoid covering the same area as your employer?• Will you tell your employer about your social media activity?• Will you discuss your work on your personal accounts?
    42. 42. Do you need a personal social media policy?• Will you avoid covering the same area as your employer?• Will you tell your employer about your social media activity?• Will you discuss your work on your personal accounts?• Will you engage in your social media while at work?
    43. 43. TransparencyWhen privacy is dead, transparency becomes more important than objectivity
    44. 44. Sometimes transparency isn’t too personal. . .
    45. 45. And sometimes it gets very personal
    46. 46. Social Media:A Different Ethical Standard? “This disclosure and the interactive nature of blogging [make the conflict of interest acceptable]. . . . While some may raiseobjections, Dow Jones feels the transparency will give readers a chance to judge my work on its merits.”
    47. 47. Is Transparency Alone Enough?
    48. 48. Two Views of Transparency . . . Pro Henry Blodgett, Business Insider:“If we think travel or an event partially paid for by acompany will help us produce content that our readerslove, we’ll be happy to consider it.“If we think it will lead to us producing crap or fluff orbe a waste of time, we won’t do it.”
    49. 49. Two Views of Transparency . . . and Con Felix Salmon, Reuters: “Failure to disclose freebies like this is very bad;disclosing them, however, isn’t much better. So the best solution is to simply refuse to take them.”
    50. 50. THE ETHICS OF REAL-TIME JOURNALISM
    51. 51. Haskell Wexler, Medium Cool (1969)In traditional journalism, reporters standapart from their personal selves and are uninvolved in what they report on.
    52. 52. In real-time journalism, the observer oftenbecomes a participant Paid Content 2011 conference. Photo and tweet by Rex Hammock (@r)
    53. 53. Is Liveblogging Journalism? The Guardian’s live blog combined wire servicereports, tweets, YouTubeand livestream video, and other sources. Not everyone liked it.
    54. 54. Liveblogging Criticism“There is no structure and therefore no sense, and the effect is of being in themiddle of a room full of loud, shouty andexcitable people all yelling at once with all the phones ringing, the fire alarmgoing off and a drunken old boy slurring in your ear about ‘what it all means.’ ” --John Symes
    55. 55. Liveblogging Praise “The liveblog isnt meant to be readwhen its finished. Its meant to be readwhile its happening. . . . It is a product of the process-driven mindset . . . It is, as the very name suggests, a live thing.” --Adam Tinworth
    56. 56. Process Journalism: Timothy Faust: flickr.com/tjfaustPaying Attention to the Man Behind the Curtain
    57. 57. Jeff Jarvis on Process Journalism “Online, the story, the reporting, the knowledge are never done and never perfect. “That doesn’t mean that we revel in imperfection . . . [or] that we have no standards. “It just means that we do journalism differently.”
    58. 58. Process-Journalism Standards• Collaboration• Transparency• Letting readers into the process• Saying what we don’t know
    59. 59. Personal or Professional? The best solution is to be yourself.If that makes you uneasy, talk with your shrink. Better yet, blog about it. -- Jeff Jarvis, BuzzMachine.com, March 8. 2011
    60. 60. Thank You! John Bethune John.Bethune@B2BMemes.comSource list: www.delicious.com/nomirth/ASBPE1

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