Modern realities and the development of technologies give impetus to the new challenges that confront the representatives of public professions. This is relevant for journalists and the ways of use of information. The journalist is responsible by his own name for the content of the materials under which his signature stands, and before issuing a new product, he should check the reliability and objectivity of information.
The journalist always works for the audience. He should be aware that in any, even informal, setting, the audience can associate him with the media in which he works. It can position his personal views as the editorial culture. Being active in social networks, a journalist should understand that the social utilities themselves are not a mass media tool, but he is also responsible for the information disseminated in them.
Social Networks Changes the Communication Model
The issue of reassessing and supplementing professional ethical standards of a journalist became relevant in the early 2000s in connection with the beginning of the development of public utilities on the Internet. Now, this issue is complicated with the widespread of research paper services as well. Ethical conflicts associated with the activities of journalists and ordinary users in public utilities began to appear in the global media sphere.
Public utilities are a great way to keep in touch with the audience with limited resources. They provide an opportunity to:
- moderate comments and improve their quality;
- instantly respond to changes in the behavior of the audience and adjust the activities of the media;
- conduct surveys and competitions;
- react quickly to news;
- receive news from the audience and keep in touch with newsmakers; convert news feeds to a source of information (the social network functions as a news aggregator);
- draw attention to the main site of the publication (analysis of the number of transitions from the publication page to the mainstream Internet media);
- develop a personal brand of a journalist;
- study the interests of the audience by the number of likes to each specific material,
- promote journalistic texts and the media;
- form a system of incentives for journalistic work, depending on the number of likes and reposts.
However, there is the problem of artificial increase in likes – promotion of this or that news, informational outfit. This is also one of the problematic aspects of journalistic ethics in public utilities.
Ethics in Public Networks
Communications within public utilities are initially presented as mixed. A person registering an account on a social network is declared as his “owner”. He is given the right to disclose his personal data, establish links with other users of the service, distribute information for individual users (groups of users), and for an unlimited number of persons. Services allow the simultaneous use of various types of communication, including mass one.
Thus, users of the social network get the opportunity to broadcast mass information without the help of the media, which acted as an “ethical filter” and allowed only information that met the requirements of professional ethics in the sphere of mass communication. In other words, there are no previous mechanisms of corporate self-regulation.
For a professional journalist who uses public utilities for personal purposes, the situation is complicated by the “bifurcation” of his communication role. He faces a double representation. First, the journalist, within the scope of his job duties, is a professional communicator who identifies himself with the editorial staff of the media. Secondly, he is a private person who has the right to distribute in public utilities any information within the framework of current legislation and service rules. At the same time, a journalist can designate his profession, position, place of work in public utilities, and talk about his professional activities. This is not prohibited by law and professional ethical codes.
In this case, for the remaining participants of the social network, he is already beginning to act not so much as an individual, but as a member of a specific media, a priori representing the editorial position. In this field, conflicts arise for a person in a “public” profession, implying increased ethical demands on the part of society (officials, judges, politicians, police, journalists, etc.). In these conflicts, corporate ethical demands and personal judgments may contradict each other.
However, there is a positive side as well. The rapid development of public networks in many ways facilitated the work of a journalist to find information about the heroes of the publication. Social networks do not replace traditional methods of journalism. But they can be a help in solving complex journalistic problems. In addition, it is necessary to comply with the norms of professional ethics in the use and dissemination of personal information of users. In social networks, biographical information is easily accessible, as well as photos that journalists use for publication in the newspaper without obtaining the consent of the hero. A journalist does not always check the validity of the data specified in the account and uses them as reliable facts.
What are the Possible Conflicts?
Conflicts of interest in social networks are a certain complexity. If professional journalism declares the desire for objectivity, covering conflicts from different sides, then users of social networks do not aspire to this. Moreover, in social networks, “guerrilla” methods have become increasingly used. The participants in the conflict themselves are included in the dissemination of biased information, disguised as ordinary uninterested users of the network. A separate ethical problem is a distribution through the social networks of images (photographs, video recordings).
Here there is a whole complex of issues, which is connected with copyright, interference with privacy, with the lack of permission of persons photographed or videotaped, with the publication of materials of shocking, offensive character and other undesirable information.
In Search of Decisions
The above-mentioned ethical issues are already discussed in the literature. There are already research projects devoted to the problem under discussion. Many editions of the world’s leading media included requirements for the behavior of employees in social networks in their corporate standards.
- New challenges in the field of journalistic ethics are connected:
- with the peculiarity of a double representation of the subject of communication in social networks (public and the private person at the same time);
- with a lack of social responsibility for disseminating information from users of social networks;
- with the inability in some cases to verify the reliability of the information disseminated;
- with the technical features of social networks.
- New ethical problems fall into two directions:
- ethical regulation of information behavior of ordinary users;
- professional ethics of journalists in social networks.
- The solution of the problem of the ethical activity of ordinary users lies in the sphere of self-regulation of a particular social network according to previously announced rules. In the event that information from social networks is used by professional journalists, they must take care of filtering, editing information and verifying its reliability.
4. The decision of a question of a parity of the private and public (corporate) element in personal blogs and pages of journalists practically dares at a level inside the editorial policy. In this regard, there has been a tendency to restrict freedom of expression to journalists who claim to belong to a particular media in a social network. These restrictions relate, as a rule, to statements of political preferences, the dissemination of confidential information, links to commercial structures and harsh expressions that can offend or degrade one’s reputation.