Saturday, January 19, 2008

Should journalists stop using social media sites in reporting? How about banning booze in the newsroom?

The press snafu over the fake Facebook account of Bilawal Bhutto Zardari should not stop journalists from using social media sites in reporting. As a media reporter, I use social media sites like Facebook, Myspace, Friendster, and Twitter not only to get in touch with contacts and friends but also to monitor for breaking news and smell possible stories. It's just that when you use social media sites, do not forget to apply that old rule in journalism: Check and verify your facts.

As PBS MediaShift associate editor Jennifer Woodard Maderazo wrote in an article about the issue, with the ease of access to information and individuals these days comes an inherent risk. "Online communities — like villages and workplaces — are breeding grounds for rumors and speculation. And the nature of some of the tools we use might lead to inconsistent, incomplete and all-around incorrect information. Using social media tools to write a story has both its pros and cons, but with a little common sense and professionalism these tools can be very helpful."

"In the end," she wrote, "it boils down to knowing how to get the most out of these tools while being wary of them, and sticking to the rule that far pre-dates the Internet: find the truth behind the story and check your facts."

Read her article here.

Here's another interesting item from Slate. I do know, however, a number of good journalists who don't drink and/or smoke.

The Whiskey Rebellion
In praise of booze in the newsroom

By Jack Shafer
Posted Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2008, at 6:37 PM ET

Every profession needs what academics call an "occupational mythology" to sustain it, a set of personal and social dramas, arrangements, and devices, as sociologist Everett Hughes put it, "by which men make their work tolerable, or even make it glorious to themselves and others." As hard drugs are to the hard-rocker and tattoos are to the NBA player, so booze is to the journalist—even if he doesn't drink.

The journalist likes to think of himself as living close to the edge, whether he's covering real estate or Iraq. He (and she) shouts and curses and cracks wise at most every opportunity, considers divorce an occupational hazard, and loves telling ripping yarns about his greatest stories. If he likes sex, he has too much of it. Ditto for food. If he drinks, he considers booze his muse. If he smokes, he smokes to excess, and if he attempts to quit, he uses Nicorette and the patch.

Read more here.

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