Why a policy?
Gazette writers, staff and volunteers are encouraged to use social media to broaden The Gazette’s reach, publicize stories, share information and build connections with readers. This policy is intended to ensure social media is used appropriately. When The Gazette publishes on its website, it uses the same standards and ethics used for print. Writers should do the same. This policy explains some principles and precautions for online use.
Personal vs. Official
Almost all university students use social media and Gazette staffers are no different. It’s important to understand the difference between official Gazette accounts and personal accounts as well as the associated policies.
Personal accounts, much like your personal life, are not regulated by Gazette policy.
However, you may do things in your personal life that can affect the Gazette and your job at the Gazette. Friending a source on Facebook would be such an example. Joining a political action group on Facebook or re-tweeting politically-charged tweets may show unintended bias. It’s important that Gazette staffers remain objective and preserve the appearance of objectivity. Consider how the groups and people you associate with online will affect this. Since these groups and people can offer breaking news and insight, it’s important not to ignore them. So be careful of friending only one side of an issue, or one candidate among many. While you are permitted to have and share your own opinion, it should be made evident that this opinion is solely yours, and does not reflect The Gazette in any manner.
Official accounts, like the Gazette Facebook account and @uwogazette Twitter account, are held to the same standards as print publication. All information should be vetted, accurate and free from editorializing. Official “AtGazette” Twitter accounts are also held to this standard. These accounts are reserved for editors and Gazette-related reporting, tweeting and interacting. They should not be used for personal use. For example, Tweeting results from a Mustang hockey game would be appropriate for a sports writer, but Tweeting the outcome of a beer pong game would not. Social media encourages sharing some personal information, but don’t overload your professional account with personal content. The “AtGazette” Twitter accounts are the user’s property. Once the individual is no longer an editor, the account name, icon and background should be changed or the account should be deleted.
Think carefully about what you post to your social media accounts.
The lines between professional and personal are blurring online; however, in places where you are identified as a Gazette reporter, you must apply the same professional standards. This does not mean stripping out personal content, tone or style (ex.online shorthand). This means providing quality, relevant information that readers will value in a manner that reflects properly on the Gazette. For this reason, it’s recommended that Gazette staffers set up personal accounts and professional accounts.
Remember that everything you post online could be viewed by your sources, colleagues, peers, competitors, future staffers, former staffers or your bosses for all time.
Accuracy, freedom from bias and integrity are fundamental to your role as a Gazette staffer and publishing online instead of in print changes nothing. If your tweets are aggregated onto the Gazette website we may be held legally responsible for what you have written. On “AtGazette” Twitter accounts, our name and logo appear with every Tweet and any non-professional content, including mean-spirited or nasty comments, may be read as representing the views of the paper as a whole.
Think before you post and always err on the side of caution.
Social media’s strength is its speed. But as journalists, we must ensure our participation is verified and vetted. Always question breaking news online and never post information without verifying it first. While second and third edits are impractical for online use, you can consider the online sphere of social media users as your second edit. Sharing incorrect information undermines your credibility as a reporter and reflects poorly on the Gazette’s credibility as a news source.
Corrections: When printing a correction online, begin the post with “CORRECTION:”
Be careful that information you share is not editorialized. Just like in print, be careful not to exaggerate the news or lean coverage to one side by unintentionally injecting opinion into something that appears to be objective news.
On personal blogs or other forms of online publishing, identify yourself as a Gazette staffer. If you’re posting comments on websites, use your real name. Not doing so may appear like you’re hiding your identity.
Remain free from bias
Your social network gives clues to your personal affiliations and you should be careful about what you reveal. Just like what you publish in print, always ensure you share both sides of the story, whether through linking or retweeting certain Twitter friends. Consider how groups you join or causes you support may be perceived as personal bias. For example, if you join an event for one USC presidency candidate, you should join the opposition’s event as well. News reporters should especially refrain from being personally involved and invested in events they will be covering for The Gazette.
Failure to abide by the above policies may result in serious repercussions, depending on the severity of the offence. The Gazette Front Office will have final say on type and severity of discipline. Above all, act on social media as you would act in person: respectfully and professionally.
For more in-depth guidelines on how to and how not to use social media, see The Gazette’s Social Media: How-To Guide.
NPR Social media guidelines
AP Social media guide
Reuters social media guide
CBC Radio guide to social media
BBC Twitter for news
BBC Social media guide
CAJ guidelines for personal activity online
Guidelines on expressing personal opinions
Northern Star social media guide
Social media for student journalists
Buttry on social media for journalists
ASNE Best Practices for social media
Washington Post social media guidelines
Montreal Gazette social media policy