Come on. Really?
- Reporters taking selfies at murder scenes?
- Smiling reporters in front of tornado damaged homes?
- News teams posing with guns pointed at the camera with a smile on their faces.
- A producer posting a tweet hoping police will use real bullets on protestors.
- A post from a newsroom with wrong information because they wanted to beat the competition, but instead of verifying the info they took it off the police scanner.
What’s going on out there?
You wouldn’t have a reporter do a topical in front of a murder scene with a smile. You certainly wouldn’t do a promo with a reporter and firefighter taking a selfie at a car accident. And you wouldn’t take information off a police scanner and break into programming without confirming the information.
It’s basic journalism ethics and common sense. New directors, reporters, and producers spend time making sure what they put on-air is correct, or at least work to make sure they have the latest information.
So why do some people in this business seem to lose their perspective when it comes to posting on social media platforms? The apparent attitude of “It’s just Facebook (or Twitter, Snap Chat, etc.), so who cares?” is dangerous and can hurt your news organization and possibly your career.
In most markets, more people may see a station’s social media posts in one day than watch that station’s newscasts. Yet, while you may spend several minutes or hours writing a story, in some stations a post is quickly pushed out, sometimes with little regard for the content.
When a newscast is over, it’s on its way to Pluto never to be seen again. But when you push something out on the internet, it NEVER goes away. In fact, it can spread like a deadly infectious disease.
I spoke with a university professor who is now adding a segment to his courses on inappropriate social media posts by journalists. Who is watching what is posted by the people in your newsroom? Is there a process? In many shops, the ND and/or EP will critique the newscasts but rarely check out their social media platforms. Is there an approval process or do you let your staff “run wild?”
It’s about credibility.
Viewer and user cynicism.
Like any other business, we’re here to serve our customers. Rarely do we hear stories about stations having journalistic issues with stories they broadcast. But almost every day there are anecdotes about social media behavior that has the industry scratching its collective heads, befuddled over how someone could post something offensive or inaccurate that makes our customers question the station’s sincerity.
Every station should have a clear policy and discussion about what gets posted and what doesn’t. Who knows, that next selfie could be the reporter, the photog or the manager being escorted out of the building carrying the stuff from their desk.