News Association Lays Down Rules on Social Media Use; Puts Focus on Ethical Standards

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Byline: Jennifer Harper, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Broadcasters who might be seduced by the freewheeling world of Tweets, blogs and online socializing have gotten a clear signal from their control tower.

Twitter's character limits and immediacy are not excuses for inaccuracy and unfairness, notes a new set of stringent guidelines issued Wednesday by the 3,000-member Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA), the world's largest professional organization for news directors, correspondents and others who work in broadcast and assorted electronic news delivery platforms.

Social media and blogs are important elements of journalism. They narrow the distance between journalists and the public. They encourage lively, immediate and spirited discussion. They can be vital news-gathering and news-delivery tools, the guidelines say.

But look out.

As a journalist you should uphold the same professional and ethical standards of fairness, accuracy, truthfulness, transparency and independence when using social media as you do on air and on all digital news platforms, RTDNA cautions.

These guidelines will be instantly valuable in just about every newsroom across the country, said Stacey Woelfel, the group's chairman. I can guarantee that anyone reading the new guidelines has already dealt with at least one of these issues.

The sheer novelty of social media has captivated many journalists, who eagerly maintain their own personal Twitter and Facebook accounts and monitor the sites of newsmakers such as former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin who regularly break news or make major announcements on Facebook or Twitter. …