Walking the Social Media Line


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A panel presentation made to the South Africa National Editor's Forum outlining the challenges related to regulating responsible and responsive social media and network practice in South African newsrooms through policy development, education, reflection and practice

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Walking the Social Media Line

  1. 1. Walking the (social media) line Presentation for SA National Editors Forum panel on Social Media 31 August 2013 Jude Mathurine Rhodes School of Journalism and Media Studies New Media Lab @newmediajude
  2. 2. The Context • Media reliance on the former audience is growing as digital and networked ICTs and channels permit read/write potential which broadens possibilities for media production, consumption and distribution. • Digital cleavages notwithstanding, social media and networks (SMNS) are the gateway to media access and potential engagement for some user demographics. • Traditional media companies must have a broad view of SMNS that includes comments, blogs, social video etc. not just Facebook updates, pins and tweets
  3. 3. The Context • Innovators and early adopters in newsroom often experiment with tools and channels before used in the mainstream • Journalists need to be keenly aware of regulations pertaining to use, aggregation and curation data from public social media channels. • SMNS pose various content, conduct and contact challenges to journalists who employ them.
  4. 4. Challenges for media professionals • Copyright violation through use or republishing of UGC without attribution and/or permission and/or remuneration
  5. 5. Challenges for professionals • Re/publishing of false/inaccurate news/data from realtime updates, livestreams, wi kis, blogs e.g. publishing of Bin Laden death mask photos, fake tsunami pictures (The Citizen - 2005) or faux video
  6. 6. Challenges for professionals • Re/publishing of false/inaccurate news/data from realtime updates, livestreams, wikis, blogs • Re/publishing of defamatory claims without public interest/fair comment defence • Invasion of privacy e.g. posing as friend or follower to access private social data • Over-reliance on online and SMNS resulting in shallow reporting and churnalism • Public conflates private and public communication by media workers regardless of use of disclaimers on profiles (although use of disclaimers is important for fair-dealing)
  7. 7. Challenges for professionals • Re/publishing UGC which may violate particular laws related to limitations to freedom of expression e.g hate speech, incitement to war, Film and Publications Act • Engaging in online social activities that could be interpreted as harassment (e.g. Cyberbullying Act 0f 2013) • Failing to moderate questionable online communication in a timely fashion (Dutch Reformed Church Vergesig, Johannesburg Congregation and Another v Rayan Soknunan 2012, H vs W 2013)
  8. 8. Challenges for professionals • Bias and imputation of bias in tweets. • Bias may also be suggested over time by mining journalists’ tweets to determine their attitude to an organisation or issue.
  9. 9. Challenges for professionals • Keeping corporate and professional social media accounts (YouTube, Twitter, HootSuite, Facebook etc) secure. • Associated Press journalists accounts were phished prior to tweet below. The resulting panic resulted in 143 point fall on the Dow Jones and wiped $136bn from S&P500
  10. 10. Challenges for professionals • Challenge to data security of newsrooms. 20% of Facebook links in newsfeeds may link to malware [stat not independently verified] • How to address mistakes. In SA, errors resulting from realtime or near/realtime publishing seldom admitted or addressed online. • Publishing of internal confidential or sensitive information
  11. 11. What’s to be done? • Danger to credibility of news organisations and traditional journalistic values of truthtelling, balance, comprehensiveness, independe nce, accuracy • Social media policy needs to be developed in consultation with staff with a view to overall strategy around professional social media use • Social media policy and professional approaches need to be developed in with a view to overall strategy around amateur UGC use incl CCTV footage
  12. 12. What’s to be done? • Social media policy must consider how to correct errors • There is NO uniform SM policy since SM strategies and approaches vary from media company to company
  13. 13. SANEF Guidelines? • SANEF guidelines will have to consider existing regulatory frameworks including BCCSA, Press Council etc. • Needs to determine best practice and norms that embrace widest possible potential for media freedom cognisant of limits to the same framed by the constitution, law and professional norms and standards. • SANEF guidelines will need to consider broad view of social media – not just Twitter and FB
  14. 14. Some guidelines • Just because it is online, doesn't mean conventional rules and norms don't apply. Be sensible and sensitive to other people's rights and interests • Identify yourself as a journalist and include a disclaimer on your social media profiles. • Don't conduct yourself in a manner that would amount to cyber-bullying (or harassment) in terms of the Protection of Harassment Act or you could land up in jail. • Have an online corrections policy to address errors and inaccuracies timeously and transparently.
  15. 15. Some guidelines • Respect privacy on social media. Do not use content from private Facebook profiles unless there is an public interest argument. This is akin to quoting “off the record” conversation • Vet, verify and contextualise information curated from social media accounts • Don’t engage in character assassination, name calling, bullying and threats. Don’t bait trolls. • Facilitate easy reporting of abuse on your social networking channels.
  16. 16. Some guidelines • Verify ownership of and attribute all third party content • Employ and train journalists and online editors who can apply understanding of media regulation to newsgathering, curation, engagement, market ing, crowdsourcing and data mining using SMNs. • Be transparent. Declare conflicts of interests. • Don’t do anything stupid (BBC)
  17. 17. Education and training: J-Schools • Student clubs, societies & media face similar issues • Convene roundtables with educators to discuss social media use and challenges in newsrooms. • Evolve organic processes to discuss implications of SMNS use, hosting, publishing
  18. 18. Education and training: J-Schools • SMNS is multidimensional problem variously affecting media specialisations e.g. photography, TV. Result is now general ethics & law course and applied ethics & law in JMC specialisations • To co-develop a model for teaching students (and educators) about best SMNS practice assumes that students in SA universities are actually learning and practicing online journalism. • In class, case study oriented learning works best. • In JMS4 new media specialisation, students are given scenario to develop and debate outcomes of a social media policy for a designated media institution
  19. 19. Education and training: J-Schools • An RU SMNS Seminar (in Sept) hopes to initiate organic conversation and process for development of norms that students, clubs and societies buy into • Within the university, there is a need for best practice and norms that embrace widest possible potential freedom of expression cognisant of limits framed by the constitution. Institutions may also choose to set their own internal SMNS norms. • Framework guidelines from SANEF could inform conversations and workshops for campus media development of SMNS policy.
  20. 20. Education and training: Newsroom • Consider policy creation as an educational moment. • Policy should be developed as an instrument to facilitate social media engagement – not solely as a punitive tool • Effective SMNS principles developed by SANEF can be used as a basis for media organisations’ own organic development of policies.
  21. 21. Education and training: Newsroom • Media organisations must learn to monitor and discuss institutional, staff SMNS use in appropriate forums. • Incorporate discussions of social media analytics into news diary meetings to: – inform agenda setting (news priorities) – inform SMNS strategy; – guide staff conduct wrt. best SMNS approaches for conduct, contact, content etc. • Newsroom training and policy development needs to be supported from the top.
  22. 22. For more… • For more on regulation and accountability mechanisms that influence SA social media use, read – Walking the Social Media Line in Rhodes Journalism Review #33: •http://goo.gl/HWS11v