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Reggie Makgoba
 
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Incorporate journalism ethics into social media

28 March 2014, 10:33

Judging from their widespread adaptation, media houses have been on the right course in regard to keeping abreast with the complexities and opportunities brought about by digital revolution. Today, with a growing number of avid media consumers who are involved and understand citizen journalism, it is hard to imagine a media house that can afford to miss the benefit and positive influence of Twitter as a tool to solicit stories. Thus, Twitter is not is too “noisy” to be a valuable distribution outlet or source of information for professional journalism.

 Overholser (2009) once argued that if journalists only focus on social media as tools for journalism, they run a risk getting backward.  He believes that social media have transformed how people receive and share news and information. Likewise, media as part of society cannot remain traditional while the audience has changed the patterns of consuming information. However, despite this paradigm shift, journalism professionals must observe their rules and do everything by the book.   

Media have to deliver what Overholser terms one-two punch combination i.e, they have to understand that facts as information that comes from official sources (Hermida 2010) and  keep up with the demands of digital revolution and explore new mechanism of distribution information such as Twitter. In this regard, social media such as twitter should be seen as tools that alert and empower with information about issues and trends or story development (Hermida 2010). Journalism is about people and their views – and Twitter is a system that which responsible journalists get shooters and pointers about stories.

 As Farhi, 2009;  and Posetti 2009, (quoted in Hermida 2010) put it: “Twitter has been rapidly adopted in newsrooms as an essential mechanism to distribute breaking news quickly and concisely, or as a tool to solicit story ideas, sources and facts.”  For newspapers it gives them a space to build their reputation and compete with other media outlet. Twitter has emerged as an important tool that allows media organizations to share the links of their website free and share hot breaking stories.

However, the question worth asking that is, how are journalism professional going to play roles that bring journalistic values into this vast social media territory? Twitter provides users with the platform to share information at a high speed (Hermida 2010).  But in journalism like other professions, the speediness of that information sharing should not come at the expense of ethical values such as accuracy, and objectivity. As Overholser (2009) simplifies it, “Accuracy, proportionality and fairness, as time-honoured journalistic values are well worth adoption by those conversing through social networks.”

Overholser (2009) contends that “being there and being accurate are how journalistic credibility is brought to the social media ocean. As much as Twitter provides journalists with ways of getting “big stories” and sharing them speedily, they have a role to ensure that they don’t perpetuate the rumor mill abuzz in the social media or risk losing credibility if they publish unverified information.

Makgoba is a seasoned fisherman. He owns two cattle in Tzaneen

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