Journalist Guidelines for the Digital Age

by Dan Ward

Thanks to Tameka Kee at for the news about Dow Jones’ new list of rules for professional conduct, which now include rules for journalists’ use of social media.

The full list of rules available from Editor & Publisher includes common sense guidelines (“Never misrepresent yourself using a false name”) but also includes “gray area” recommendations that could be controversial, especially if other news organizations follow suit.

For instance, the guidelines state that “business and pleasure should not be mixed on services like Twitter.”  There are hundreds of journalists on Twitter that already are mixing business and pleasure, tweeting not just about articles they’ve written and information they’re trying to find, but also their thoughts on sporting events, restaurants, movies, etc.

Is that any different from having lunch with a source and sharing personal information as part of building a relationship?  If a journalist hosts a “Tweet up” and sources attend along with personal friends, does that qualify as a violation?

I don’t profess to know the answers, but I’m sure these rules will lead to many more questions.

2 Responses to Journalist Guidelines for the Digital Age

  1. Tameka Kee says:

    Hey Dan:

    Thanks for the hat tip. It’s a very blurry line to walk. I use Twitter to broadcast my stories and find sources, but also to keep in touch with friends, get restaurant tips, find new music, etc. — as you pointed out.

    Facebook is a bit of a different story. I find myself being more inclined to censor myself there, because it is so personal and I’ve already friended so many industry contacts. FB has grouping features so you can slice and dice who gets to see what, they’re just not very intuitive or easy to use.

  2. Roger Pynn says:

    As a resident geezer in these online communities I’m beginning to think I need to relax a bit and realize the world will never again be like it used to be (sigh!); there’ll never again be a day when journalists refrain from saying “I think;” and there’ll likely never be a bolt of lightning strike a journalist who mixes business and pleasure on Twitter or Facebook (sigh!). Just as we can pray for rain, we can pray for common sense. Lord help us!

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