Articles

"New Media" Policy - A Tricky But Perhaps Needed Measure

In a changing landscape of new media on the web, do local governments need to address how their staff conduct themselves on many popular sites as the New York Times recently has done?

by / February 6, 2009
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According to reports from EConsultancy.com and the Poynter Institute, the New York Times has been the first major newspaper to address some thorny ethical issues that arise over staff's use of popular social and new media websites like Facebook! and Twitter.

The rules:

* Don't specify your political views. This includes joining online groups that would make your political views known.
* Don't write anything you wouldn't write in The Times on your profiles, a blog or as commentary on content you share.
* Be careful who you 'friend'. Since this is a tricky subject, The Times suggests that its reporters "imagine whether public disclosure of a 'friend' could somehow turn out to be an embarrassment that casts doubt on our impartiality."
* Using email addresses found on social networks to contact individuals is fine but the standard rules apply: treat the person fairly and openly and don't "inquire pointlessly into someone's personal life."
* The Standards Editor must be consulted before contact is made with a minor.

This tricky new area may be one where staffers and Standards Editors have an evolving conversation in the years ahead, according to the reports.

This raises a serious question: What similar restrictions, if any, should be placed on local government employees?

Photo by Dom Dada. Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic

Blake Harris Editor