Maggie Reid–Week 9 Blog

Requesting to follow someone on social media in order to use them as a source is ethical, in my opinion, as long as you are making it known that you are a journalist and the reason was to strictly ask them questions for your story. The relationship between the source should be professional so that there is no bias towards your reporting.

An example of journalists using Facebook for sources would be Tracy Swartz, a writer for The RedEye in Chicago. She writes about the transit system, and in this case, bus drivers friended her so that they could send her information. In this case, however, Facebook was a valuable tool in order for her to find out more information.

In this day and age, social media is important for promoting stories, reporting updates, as well as getting information from followers. Someone from social media can send a reporter a video of a fire that happened, for example. The reporter can ask that person questions to find out more information.

NPR has a code of ethics for journalists when it comes to social media. In it, they say that social media can be used as a way to speed up research and news gathering, as well as extend a reporters contacts.

However, in it they say reporters must carefully cite exactly where and who they got the information from, and make it known if they were unable to confirm something. They must also verify pictures from social media, as it is easy to manipulate images. If they are unsure, they should not post it. They should also follow up to confirm information they got from an online source by calling them on the phone or by doing an in person interview.

When getting information from social media, there is also the chance of appearing less credible .  There was a study done by the Amsterdam School of Communication that found the public viewed sources obtained from phone calls and in person as more credible than from Twitter or Facebook.

5 thoughts on “Maggie Reid–Week 9 Blog”

  1. Awesome job Maggie! Yes there was a day early in my career where if an editor saw you on Facebook they thought you were goofing off at work. Not the case. I and other reporters were gathering information and making new contacts and once the value was explained and then seen by our editor, Facebook went from reprimand to sometimes necessary tool. We live in an age where hardly anyone has a landline anymore and it’s difficult to find contact information for a source. Often I’ve had to reach out to sources, messaging them on Facebook and then asking that they contact me by phone. You’re right, to maintain an ethical relationship, it must Always be understood that you are a reporter and that you have a specific goal in mind for gathering your information. But going on someone’s personal Facebook page or checking out their Twitter feed and taking information for publication isn’t doing what we’ve already discussed in this course – checking your sources for accuracy.


  2. Maggie, I enjoyed reading your post. The study you noted at the end about credibility was similar to the one I noted in my post. An issue I have with using social media to speak to sources and get more information is that it could become easier for journalists be less transparent and fail to note they they intend to use information for a news story. I definitely agree with you that if journalists are going to use these websites to gain information they have to be upfront with the sources.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Maggie, I agree with everything you said. Personally, I would use social media as a resource and friend/follow a source unless it was discouraged by the news organization I am working for. While I don’t think that social media should be used as the be-all and end-all for sources, it is definitely a useful tool for journalists to gather information and engage with their audience. I like that you brought up NPR’s social media guidelines as well. I did the same thing with Associated Press’ guidelines because it goes to show that there isn’t just one code of social media ethics; it varies by organization.


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