The Buttry Diary- Questions and answers about journalists’ opinions in social media

February 9, 2012

Steve Buttry addresses the issue of journalists’ expression via social media with three main principles:

  1. Opinions are not fundamentally unethical journalism– Editors and reporters conduct subjective news judgments on a daily basis. Numerous opinions are expressed when deciding on a story, based on elements such as timeliness, significance, facts, news angle, etc.
  2. Opinions matter, and the place of opinions in journalism is being reassessed on many fronts– Expressing neutrality or personal perspective should be assessed by the writer, depending on the issue at hand.
  3. Decisions about using social media should be guided by good journalism ethics– There are no special rules for Twitter or Facebook (John Paton and JRC Employee Rules For Using Social Media). However, clearing it with the editor will remove uncertainties about whether it is appropriate to express an opinion about a story you are covering.

I agree with Buttry’s principles and I believe that journalists should put more of themselves into a story in order to establish the connection between reader and writer. Furthermore, it is important for journalists to consider whether their opinions will add value to the story. Journalism can still be ethical and credible without being objective, as long as reporting reflects accuracy and fairness on both sides of an issue.

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