Ethical Guidelines for New Media
New media pertains to any source of media that derives from a digital source, with New Media journalism being news that is found on online websites and social media platforms. New media journalism has significantly changed the way we view news, and what we believe news to be. Because of the interactive and immediate nature of new media, where users of technology can upload photos, videos, post tweets, and live-stream from their own personal computers and smart phones that spreads quickly and widely, consumers of news have become central to the journalistic landscape, becoming not only consumers of news, but producers as well. Not only has social media changed journalism, but other sources of online news, such as sites like Vice and Buzzfeed. This broadening of the journalistic landscape has caused us to question the journalistic standards present in traditional journalism, known as journalism ethics, as traditional journalists are no longer the sole creators of news, and everyone has the possibility to create and provide news-worthy information through new media platforms. Journalism ethics have acted as a code of conduct for journalists, ensuring responsible, reliable news that the public can trust. With anyone having the ability to publish news, an ethical code for new media is necessary to maintain journalistic responsibility and regulate content. Though everyone has the possibility to publish news, this ethics code will apply to those who identify themselves as journalists, and who the public views as trustworthy sources such as widely followed social media users and online publications. To maintain the integrity of journalists and journalism, ethics must be applicable across platforms.
New media journalists must remain steadfast in the pursuit of accuracy when it comes to reporting. Because of the immediacy of new media, such as social media and cell phone journalism, it is often difficult to assure accuracy and make sure information is factually correct. Due to this immediate journalism, where stories can drop seconds after events have occurred, journalists must put disclaimers for their readers so that they know that their stories may not yet have all the facts, and that sources have the possibility of being unreliable. If a story is proven to be incorrect, or to have misleading, untrue information, this must be remedied immediately, and in a way that readers will not be misinformed. If a story is incorrect, new media journalists will do their best to inform their readership of their mistake using all means possible to reach them, such as on their story or website, as well as through their social media. Though there is increased value on the speed of news and information, this should not compromise the journalists responsibility to the public to provide reliable and trustworthy news.
New media journalism involves many more people than traditional journalism. Though new media journalism involves more people, this does not necessarily mean that more people want to be involved. To avoid breaches of privacy, those who label themselves as journalists, and media influencers must use common sense and sensitivity to honour citizens their right to privacy. This may not be considered for more well-known citizens who hold certain amounts of power, as breaches of their privacy may be beneficial to a larger group of people that deserve to know information that will affect them. However, individuals who are vulnerable, or may have their safety compromised by breaches of privacy, such as children or victims of crimes such as sexual assault, must have the right to retain their privacy. Though new media allows for a more immersive media environment, those who brand themselves as major players of new media should be conscious of those who do not wish to be a part of this environment.
Freedom of information is inherent to the nature of new media. Though this may be the case of the medium, those who identify as media influencers and journalists, have the responsibility to maintain the integrity of their sources, and to disclaim the ownership of their sources. Therefore influential media users must obtain permission from all sources where possible, and credit all sources used. Though it may be difficult to execute this, if these people wish to remain ethical, and uphold standards, this must be integral to those who wish to set themselves apart as journalists and trusted individuals. Because of the immediacy of new media journalism, it is often difficult to fact-check sources immediately, so journalists should always disclaim that sources may not be wholly correct. Individuals who have gained public trusts such as journalists and media influencers, also have the responsibility to remain true to their sources, and to not skew and distort original sources such as quotes and images. Though objectivity in reporting need not be a quality of new media journalism, as opinion pieces can retain integrity, a standard of new media journalism should be to honour sources, and even in criticism, not to manipulate one’s source to the advantage of one’s aim.
Social media, Advocacy, Objectivity and Transparency:
Social media provides journalists with an avenue to interact with their audience, create personal connections with readers, and an opportunity to build a presence online. Because of the deeply personal element of social media, this can amount to journalist’s opinions to interfere with the content that they are reporting. If this is the case, journalists must disclose why their opinions are of a certain nature, and how they have been influenced to report in this manner. The audience must be aware if the reporting is not objective, and that the reporter is expressing their opinion, and must be able to differentiate between opinion pieces and straight reporting of the facts. Social media can also be used by journalists for advocacy purposes, or to express their support or opinion about a cause. As this is a personal space for journalists, advocacy, and the expression of opinions is an acceptable practice. However, if journalists choose to then write a story regarding an issue that they have expressed advocacy for, they should provide access to their social media for readers to see, so the reader has knowledge of the journalists background and opinion regarding the matter. As social media also grants journalists access to the public, and allows them interactions with the public, this allows for a more personal connection with certain readers and potential subjects for stories. Journalists should not use their social media to conduct relationships that will benefit their journalism as this could arise in a conflict of interest, and would be considered incredibly unprofessional to take advantage of the public and potential sources in this way. This would not only be biased journalism, but would be a breach of trust between journalists and the public. It is incredibly important that as a recognized professional, or trusted source of news, online journalists maintain a certain transparency as to what and why they are reporting on an issue, and this is a valued part of retaining the integrity of news across platforms.