Thursday, May 04, 2006

Ethics of citing Social Networks

I've been working on a class paper about the ethics of journalists citing Wikipedia, social networking sites and blogs and wanted to share some interesting points.

  • Many journalists are quoting directly from the bio and comments sections of social networking sites. I cited an article in my local Austin American-Statesman where a murder suspect's screen name "Ilovemoneyandhos" and his love for the movie Scarface were given as examples of his violent tendencies. I know that these pages are technically public, but the kids who publish them are writing them for their friends and the content is often exaggerated. Journalists should be realistic and fair with what they quote.

  • Just because the information is public domain, doesn't mean it should be reproduced in the story and journalists need to have sensitivity about this. An article in Higher Ed magazine about students creating a group to mock their TA quoted directly from the comments on the site, published a screen shot of the page and published all of the girl's names from their facebook page. I don't think reproducing this material made it any better for the TA, nor was publishing the students names necessary. One blogger made a good point that nowadays with google news an article can stay around for a long time, and if those girl's names are searched in the future this story will come to haunt them.

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  • 2 Comments:

    Blogger Sharon Meraz said...

    Nice job! I'm glad you provided a blog entry on your perspective. It is important to begin a dialogue in professional journalism circles about what counts as private and what is public. Though many blogs now exist in the private domain, places like MySpace and Facebook are unusual as it relates to the age group of the members in these social networks. It is indeed a complicated, controversial subject, and one that many ethnographers are avidly discussing. It is time for journalists to also begin a dialogue on this issue.

    I thought you might be interested to know that Facebook is open to high school students and is now open to a non-school audience. See article in techcrunch at http://www.techcrunch.com/2006/04/26/facebook-goes-beyond-college-high-school-markets/. This move could publicize material on these social networks, indicating they are indeed more public and open to more diverse populations outside the traditional school age market.
    It has other ramifications too--why aren't any newspapers in these listings of advertisers and corporations. That is an entirely separate topic, but one that also needs some attention.

    5/05/2006 12:36 PM  
    Blogger Sharon Meraz said...

    Opps, I meant, most blogs are in the PUBLIC DOMAIN, not private.....

    5/05/2006 12:37 PM  

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