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?