By Mark Stencel
The NPR News staff is a chatty group, on-air and online -- as thousands of our Twitter followers and Facebook friends already know. Individual NPR journalists, from longtime host Scott Simon to new health blogger Scott Hensley, regularly muse online about their work and other subjects. Even the somewhat technical updates that our Digital Media staff posted on Twitter when we revamped NPR.org in July drew surprising interest and feedback.
Popular social media sites and services are great reporting tools. They help our journalists find and keep in contact with a wide range of sources. They also provide powerful ways to connect with our listeners and users and to share our journalism. But all of us at NPR News need to remember that, as journalists, we are just as responsible and accountable for what we say and do online as we are in other aspects of our lives.
Social media guidelines shared with the news staff on Thursday offer commonsense rules and reminders for those of us here who make use of these communication channels. Summarizing the guidance in an e-mail message, Senior Vice President for News Ellen Weiss urged the staff to "use social media for journalistic purposes and as a way to connect with the audience." Weiss also reminded our journalists -- including the engineering, operations and news administration staffs -- to avoid doing "anything online that will damage your credibility or the credibility of NPR."
In a separate message, CEO Vivian Schiller emphasized that the guidelines for the news staff "are relevant to ALL employees." The rules are mandatory for all company officers, as well as any staff involved with programming, digital media, communications and legal affairs. But Schiller urged those who "fall outside those boundaries" to follow the guidelines as well. "NPR is first and foremost a news organization," she wrote, "which means staffers from Finance to Facilities represent the face of NPR's journalistic integrity. So I'd ask that you please use your best judgment when it comes to your public activities online."
In the spirit of openness that social media often represents, we thought we'd share with you the full text of these Social Media Guidelines. (Please see below.)
As ever, we welcome any thoughts and feedback -- whatever the medium.
Mark Stencel (@markstencel on Twitter) is NPR's managing editor for Digital News.
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NPR NEWS SOCIAL MEDIA GUIDELINES
Social networking sites, such as Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter have become an integral part of everyday life for millions of people around the world. As NPR grows to serve the audience well beyond the radio, social media is becoming an increasingly important aspect of our interaction and our transparency with our audience and with a variety of communities. Properly used, social networking sites can also be very valuable newsgathering and reporting tools and can speed research and extend a reporter's contacts, and we encourage our journalists to take advantage of them.
The line between private and public activity has been blurred by these tools, which is why we are providing guidance now. Information from your Facebook page, your blog entries and your tweets -- even if you intend them to be personal messages to your friends or family -- can be easily circulated beyond your intended audience. This content, therefore, represents you and NPR to the outside world as much as a radio story or story for NPR.org does.
As in all of your reporting, the NPR Code of Ethics (http://www.npr.org/about/ethics/) should guide you in your use of social media. You should read and be sure you understand the Code.
What follows are some basic but important guidelines to help you as you deal with the changing world of gathering and reporting news, and to provide additional guidance on specific issues. These guidelines apply to every member of the News Division.
First and foremost -- you should do nothing that could undermine your credibility with the public, damage NPR's standing as an impartial source of news or otherwise jeopardize NPR's reputation.
And a final caution -- when in doubt, consult with your editor.
Social media is a very dynamic ecosystem so don't be surprised if we continue to revise or elaborate on our guidelines at a later date. In the mean time, we welcome your feedback.
categories: Social Media