Saturday, November 7, 2009

Propriety in the written word

Some things you never write because it's evidence of who you are. Some things, you don't want evidence of.

Upon reading up on news organizations' recent amass of rules and regulations for social media Web sites, such as Facebook, Twitter and online blogs, I'm beginning to wonder what's going to happen if I ever get a job with a major news organization or rather, any news organization. I've logged 180 posts on this blog since I started it in January. I have another 669 entries on LiveJournal dating back to 2001. Not to mention, 889 comments posted and 781 comments received on that account. And, though I don't have active links to that journal anywhere, I don't intend on deleting my account. It'd be like deleting a file of memories.

According to AP's new social media guidelines, in reference to materials posted on Facebook by others they say, "It’s a good idea to monitor your profile page to make sure material posted by others doesn’t violate AP standards; any such material should be deleted." Not only are journalists supposed to mind what they say, but it seems, they are also responsible for the thoughts of others in their online presence. I wonder if these guidelines apply retroactively. These news organizations have come up with these new regulations because of the rise of social networking, but what about materials posted on sites, unregulated, dating back an entire decade?
Are journalists supposed to erase chronicles of their lives for the sake of propriety?
I'm all for unbiased journalism and minding your political stance and stance on other controversial issues online. But there's a fine line between responsibility and an encroachment on a journalists' freedom of speech. In the new era of social media, it's imperative that news organizations remember the foundation upon which they lie: the protection of 1st amendment rights.

One news organizations said, what you say online is there forever, and it's not like saying whatever you want to say over a beer in a bar. But the thing is, the future of this business is on the Web. And in the future, everyone's lives are going to be floating on the Web. I don't think there's going to be a great difference b/t the bar scenario and a personal Web site scenario. If by becoming a member of the fourth estate, we must give up our own freedom of speech on the Web, then what does that say about the future of the industry? It just seems incredibly ironic. News organizations can choose to move forward, or choose to stay back. By limiting a journalists movements/freedom on the Web so gravely, I believe is a step back, and a lack of understanding in the value that social networking provides for the future of journalism.

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