ethics for Twitter journalists
ethics of balance, impartiality, fairness,
objectivity and accuracy are at the heart of all
good journalism. Without these values, some
so-called journalists will be pumping out PR and
propaganda. But with so many journalists in
traditional media now invading the social
networking space and using tools such as Twitter
to both find stories and to spread stories, how
do editorial ethics stand up in this fast-paced,
for Twitter journalists
The great thing
about Twitter is the speed of delivery and
publication. It was set up so that people could
answer the question What are you
doing? in a 140 character text message,
sent from either a mobile device or a computer.
It's instant and
it is focused. The message is not drowned in
unnecessary words. People using Twitter for
sending news have to be disciplined. It's ideal
for news headlines. Short, sharp and to the
atmosphere is now thick with tweets with a
richness of subject variety that is often leaving
the mainstream media behind.
Some are fairly
basic (although no less important for those
sending and receiving) such as, I have had
a bad day and taking the dog for a
walk, but others, as we have seen in the
recent tweeting around the situation in Iran
#iranelections , have been stunning in their
delivery of information that may not otherwise
have been circulated.
I now consult my
Tweet Deck before I consult my old favourite news
the information trustworthy?
More and more
journalists are using Twitter as part of their
newsgathering process . There are still those who
dismiss it as a distraction, irrelevance or
something for kids, but many are now embracing
it, because they know it connects them with their
audience and offers them tips and leads that are
often ahead of the wires.
So, what about
Twitter ethics for journalists? Are these any
different from traditional editorial ethics?
I would argue
not; the only thing that has changed is the
remains the same and is based on balanced,
impartial, objective, fair and accurate reporting
that reaches the whole audience and represents
all significant voices regardless of race,
religion or financial status.
look at some of the ethical issues
Well-sourced information based on solid
Fair and open-minded coverage exploring
all significant views,
Transparent, open, honest and fair
coverage based on straight-dealing,
Delivering challenging journalism that is
sensitive to audience expectations,
Dealing with groups keen to use the media
for their own advantage,
To be respected and not invaded unless it
is in the public interest.
will always be judged on the accuracy and
reliability of the journalism s/he produces. It
by strong evidence
- clear and
tweeting doesnt have to have the whole
story, but they need to be totally transparent in
making clear the difference between verified fact
and rumour and speculation.
The bottom line
is that journalists should not deal in rumour and
speculation. Others tweeting can, but a
journalist should not.
means not being prejudiced towards, or against,
any particular side, and to be fair and balanced.
This is a tough
one. How is that achieved in a tweet of 140
The main thing
is that, as you uncover different facts and piece
them together, you aim to cover the whole story
with all perspectives explored. So, if you are
restricted to 140 characters you are going to
have to string together several tweets .
If you can bring
all the facts together in an online article and
provide a link, all the better. If not, try
re-tweeting the additional information. Perhaps
let those following you know that you will update
with more information soon and include more
reflecting the diversity of opinion fairly and
accurately can we hope to offer a true picture of
what is really happening.
have their own views, and yet to deliver
comprehensive and authoritative coverage of news
and current affairs they must rise above their
own personal perspective.
particularly true with controversial issues.
Here, particularly, journalists need to be
objective and impartial and keep their own
opinions firmly under wraps. Impartiality means:
- provide a
balance of issues and views
- reflect a
wide range of opinion
- ensure no
significant strand of thought is under
In terms of
editorial freedom, journalists should be free to:
- cover any
subject if there are good editorial
reasons for doing so
- report on a
specific aspect of an issue
- provide an
opportunity for a single view to be
- avoid bias
or an imbalance of views
stories that might offend part of the
- be fair
with contributors and let them respond to
always aim to be fair, honest and straightforward
with everyone they come in contact with,
particularly contributors and the audience.
So when we tweet
we should seek out opinions from those who may
hold opposing views and perspectives and offer
them the opportunity to comment and be prepared
to tweet that, too.
We should always
offer the right of reply when making allegations.
is rigorous, robust and searching may
occasionally offend parts of the audience. The
same is true with tweets.
The bottom line
is that journalists must ensure that the material
they cover has a clear editorial purpose.
However, journalists need to be careful that
offence is not used to prevent them from digging
someone is offended doesn't mean the topic should
not be investigated. You can't keep everyone
happy, and neither should you try to do so.
integrity should be the heart of all journalism.
Without integrity your journalism is
untrustworthy and suspect. The same goes for the
affects every area of a news organisation from
senior management to the most lowly job. It gives
you the authority to investigate and dig where
others don't; without integrity you can't do
integrity, journalism because malleable and easy
to manipulate, and there are many cases where
that is apparent in today's media.
To stand apart
and to inform the public debate with crisp,
rigorous journalism, you need integrity. In
editorial terms it means the following:
- to be
independent of both state and partisan
- to not
endorse or appear to endorse any
organisation, its products, activities or
- to not give
undue prominence to commercial products
- to not
unduly promote our own media organisation
- to be a
rigorous in our coverage of our media
businesses dealings as we are with
a difficult balancing act. They must respect
privacy but they must also be robust in their
investigation into issues that are in the public
This will mean
that in some cases it will be necessary for a
journalist to carry out an investigation that
interferes with someones privacy. Such
cases could include:
- crime and
health and safety
important rule is that we must treat people
fairly and with respect.
We must also be
clear about our own motives. We must have no
personal interest in an investigation that
invades a persons privacy. The only
justification is that it is in the public
interest and we are genuinely attempting to shine
a light on wrongdoing.
To sum up, the
fact that a tweet by a journalist is restricted
to 140 characters does not mean that journalistic
ethics can be ditched.
mainstream media is to contribute to this
fast-evolving communication network it needs to
carry with it the values that have underpinned
journalism through its many previous evolutionary
and conduits change, but journalist must remain
true to editorial values adjusted only to reflect
Brewer es un
periodista británico que ha sido managing editor
en CNN.com Europa, Medio Este y África; managing
editor de BBC News Online y editor de BBC
Regional Political Unit. Este texto lo publicó
en su blog Media
Helping Media, el pasado 28