I always find these discussions regarding journalistic ethics extremely interesting. With so many of my classmates holding a degree or extensive work experience in journalism, I feel a little lost in the crowd (considering I have neither a degree nor any experience in journalism). What is most interesting to me is the difference in opinions regarding ethics between those who work in journalism, and those who do not.

To me (the non-journalist), a private social media should be off limits to journalists who are seeking information or a scoop. However, a person who shares information publicly online is essentially waiving their right to any argument on why that information should now be private. I think part of being a good journalist is knowing when to respect the privacy of the subjects and how to approach stories in a respectful way (as in the lecture example of a murder investigation).

I keep tabs on my privacy settings on social sites pretty regularly. I also take it a step further by not posting anything personal or information that I do not want public – regardless of the privacy settings. On certain social sites, like Facebook, I post almost nothing. Other sites, like Instagram, where I jointly post with my business brand, I never share anything that I would not want made public. For example, I never add a location to my photos or add them to my photo map. This is partly because I never think to do so, and also because I do not want people to know my location. I have many followers that are not people that I personally know, and that is a risk that I am not willing to take.

As a general rule of thumb for reporters, I believe that private social media profiles should remain private. However, all social media users should operate under the knowledge that nothing is private once it is online – and that accepting friend requests from strangers compromises the privacy of your accounts, regardless of the settings.

Do you accept friend requests from strangers on your personal social sites?

Do you adjust your privacy settings to control what strangers or acquaintances can see (i.e. limited profile settings)?

Do you have any examples (personal or not) of journalists blurring the ethical lines online in order to get a story?


Ethical Motivations


As a Religious Studies major, I took many classes in undergrad about or related to ethics. At the time, I simply enjoyed them for the debates and conversations they inspired amongst my classmates (and I hope this class does the same). Now, I realize the importance of ethics as a businesswoman, and hope to continue to expand on them as a student of social media.

The “gray area” of ethics is what makes it so interesting. Would you? Could you? And why? These are all questions that are completely subjective – truly at the discretion of each of us as individuals within our moral landscape.

Professor Kings broke down the steps of the ethical decision making process into 3 key questions:

  1. What are your motivations and why?
  2. What are the likely effects of your decision and to whom?
  3. Where does your duty lie strongest in making this decision?

The questions posed are fair, and can certainly encourage the decision maker to look at the motivations and potential results of each decision. However, I am not sure that many (if not most) people have the true ability to make these real self-assessments honestly. I know that when I want to do something, I am usually able to convince myself that I should do it. I would venture to say that most people could easily justify their own actions based on their own agenda.

In the video shared in lecture, a professor asks his class whether or not it is ethical to send a Facebook friend request to a friend of a murder victim without identifying yourself as a journalist, with the intention of getting more information about the story. Let me start off by saying that unlike many of my classmates, I do not work in journalism or broadcasting. That being said, I do think that it is unethical to misrepresent you, or improperly identify yourself, in order to get a story. In this specific case, the friend of the murder victim is likely grieving and their privacy should be respected. How would you feel if you received a friend request from a journalist in a time of personal tragedy? Would you be more inclined to accept a friend request from an unidentified stranger or an identified journalist?

The motivations behind the friend request would likely be self-serving, even if the journalist justified it as utilitarianism by providing the story to the inquiring masses. Again, I do not work in journalism, so my views may be biased, but I think it is impossible to really take the egoism out of these types of breaking stories and other sensational stories. Regardless of the fact that you are trying to share a story with the masses, you still want to be “the ONE” that broke the story. Perhaps by opinion is skewed by watching too many episodes of House of Cards over the break. A question for those in journalism: How much of journalism is for the glory of the story and how much is for personal glory?

social media and journalism

Previous Sememsters

How does social media fit into journalism?  It seems like now it has a hand in every news story that we see.  Overholser talks about how Michael Jackson’s death broke on TMZ’s Twitter while the Los Angeles coroner’s office was still reporting the singer in a coma.  Demers mentions that the initial social media postings on the Boston Marathon bombing resulted in a nation wide manhunt for the wrong suspect at first.  It is important for journalists who are approaching their craft from social media to be aware of the difference between being there, and being accurate.  And it is certainly possible to be both. 


Kritsch lists the 4 ways that social media is changing journalism:

Source from the streets:  (or citizen Journalism as Demers puts it).  Citizens are live Tweeting, and posting, about the events as they occurring.  I recently drove past a car completely engulfed in flames on the side of the interstate.  The car owner (instead of hysterically crying as I might have been) was recording the entire show on his iPhone… as were many passing by.  (Note:  emergency vehicles were already present).  Later that night, the car owner’s own footage was on the evening news. 

Master the art of listening:  The ability to block out white noise, or non essential stories and information, on the internet is one of the perks of social media.  Hashtagging and keywording makes searching for information easier and more effective. 

Amplify your story:  Posting your story by time zone is a great way to maximize its reach.  Using scheduling tools can help maximize your audience by hitting certain areas and demographics at specific times. 

Analyze the results:  Analytics help determine what social media avenues and posts are most effective and how. 

While journalism and social media are important, Biro’s article on branding spoke the most to my specific situation.  Finding a balance between a personal brand and a business brand is key to a sole proprietorship like my own.  Am I Lesley Geyer, or Lesley at The Pink Petticoat?  I feel more equipped now to represent The Pink Petticoat, rather than being The Pink Petticoat. 

I asked this question earlier in the semester, but I am interested to see if the answer has changed:

Should I focus on my personal brand as the owner of The Pink Petticoat, and lingerie expert, or focus on being The Pink Petticoat brand?

Are they one and the same?

Would you consider customer reviews as “citizen journalism”?