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Note to Reporters: Let MSM Control Your Social Network, and You Disappear

I will have a story today in the Crikey email edition about some Twitterers who are pioneering court reporting by Tweet. Another story will critique Rupert Murdoch’s labelling Google, Yahoo and the like as kleptomaniacs.

This at a time when, as reported on this blog previously and in The Australian today mainstream media organisatons are grappling with how to regulate staff reporters’ use of social networking tools.

People will have different views, but I have some clear advice to journalists. Do not allow your employer to prevent you from having access to Twitter, Facebook and the like. Be very cautious indeed about signing anything that restricts your ability to network online.

It is reasonable for employers to expect you to restrain yourself, just as you would in any other public forum. The laws of defamation, contempt and privacy still apply.

But any journalist who fails to get to grips with social networking tools, or who allows their own online personality to be subsumed in corporate blandness and bla, will risk irrelevance and invisibility in the future. We all know, as journalists, that our reputations are the foundations for our career. Our reputations belong to us, not our employers.

In the future one of the main ways in which we will build those reputations is through interaction with audiences via social networking. Tools like Facebook and Twitter are fast becoming vital means by which people decide which media content to access and to trust.

Therefore a reporter that signs across their internet presence entirely to their employer is conflating individual reputation with the reputation of the mainstream media organisation that is employing them. If content disappears behind pay walls, then how will a journalist without an online social network ever become known, other than to the small private club that chooses to subscribe to the employer’s content?

Given that mainstream media is employing fewer and fewer journalists, and the job growth is likely to be in smaller, intensely networked publications, I would call that a foolish move


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  • 1
    Julie Posetti
    Posted October 12, 2009 at 7:42 pm | Permalink

    Hi Margaret,

    I’ve done some research & published several articles on journalists’ adoption & experiences of Twitter at the PBS website dedicated to the media revolution we’re undergoing: Mediashift (see: http://www.pbs.org/mediashift/julie-posetti) which you may be interested in.

    The 3-part series includes a list of Top 20 Tips for Tweeting Journos (http://www.j-scribe.com/2009/06/top-20-tips-for-journo-twits.html) and the final instalment focuses on the themes you touch on here: objectivity & interactivity within social media communities. I concluded that journalists must be space invaders in the ‘Twitterverse’ & that interaction with audiences on social media platforms like Twitter is crucial to the survival of professional journalism & a key feature of the ‘new journalism’.

    I also have an article in the latest edition of the Walkley Magazine (due out on Wednesday http://twitpic.com/jtasl) which summarises this research.

    As a professional journalist and an academic researching this field I wholeheartedly endorse your interpretation of the journalistic value of these platforms & the need for journalists to reassess the 20th C Western construct of objectivity as they grapple with professional identities in the context of the proliferation of social networking.

    Cheers & looking forward to speaking about these issues alongside you @ Media140 in Sydney next month! (http://media140.com/sydney/)


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  5. …] at a time when, as I have reported previously, other media organisations are restricting their staff members’ rights to use social […