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Tips for journalists navigating the world of social media

Maybe you decided to set up a twitter account or a blog. And then there’s Facebook. Or maybe you don’t want anything to do with social media but your employer thinks you should try it to expand your reach (and theirs). You may well feel you are working without a safety net.

As part of our series on tips for using social media and staying out of trouble, the Canadian Media Guild offers the following guidance to our members who work as journalists:

Of all social media that is popular right now, Twitter is probably the one that most blurs the boundaries between professional and personal lives. Twitter works well when the account presents a real, identifiable person who shares information, opinions and ephemera on topics related to their work and non-work lives. Twitter is packed with journalists with large followings who use it to great effect to plug their own stories, pass on other news from their outlet, share tidbits and colour that may or may not make it into what they file to the desk, etc.

If you’re a journalist on Twitter using your real name, we recommend that you:
– Tell your boss about your account
– Follow any journalistic policies that apply
– Ask first, if you are unsure about posting something
– Don’t ever post in anger or in haste
– Avoid expressing opinion on the stuff you are expected to cover in your job, unless your job is to express opinion

If you are asked to Tweet by your boss, you have every right to:
– Ask for training on how to do it well
– Develop a work plan with your boss to make sure it fits in with your other responsibilities
– Ask what other task should be dropped, if your time is already fully accounted for.

Blogs and Facebook
Having a blog and/or a Facebook account in your own name and being open about where you work and what you do also blurs the boundaries between your personal and professional lives. Some journalists set up a page with their public persona that they use in their work as a journalist (to find sources, etc.); some then have a private account that uses a different name (eg. includes their middle name or a pseudonym) for their non-work life. Remember that what you write on Facebook walls and status updates is considered public.

If you have a work-related blog, the same advice applies as with Twitter: tell your boss about your account, follow applicable policies, ask first if you’re unsure about posting something, and address any workload concerns with your supervisor.

If you have a personal blog, and want to keep it that way, avoid identifying your employer and job.

In the next installment of the series, we will provide tips for on-air and prominent employees, including those with by-lines.

Do you have questions not answered here? Other thoughts on the points covered? We’d like to hear from you and will update these tips from time to time. Write to Karen Wirsig (karen@cmg.ca), send a tweet @karenatcmg or call 416-591-5333 or 1-800-465-4149.

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