The use of social media by journalists raises new ethical and professional dilemmas. As a result, news outlets are implementing policies addressing what is and what is not permitted on social media platforms.

Suzanne Lysak, associate professor of broadcast and digital journalism at Syracuse University, and I recently published a paper on this topic in the Electronic News journal.

Through a nationwide survey of local television news directors, we examine the prevalence of social media policies in TV newsrooms, the source of those policies, and the application in newsrooms.

In the research paper, You Can’t Post That! Social Media Policies in U.S. Television Newsrooms, we discuss how the policies address emerging issues in the following five areas and provide policy recommendations:

  • personal and professional social media activity of reporters
  • social media sourcing and content
  • audience complaints on social media
  • the use of social media while reporting in the field
  • ownership of social media accounts

Key Findings

  • A majority of stations (66%) own the professional social media accounts of their journalists.
  • Most policies address what reporters should avoid posting on social media (political affiliation, advocating on behalf of an issue, and personal opinion top the list).
  • A fourth of respondents said they have suspended or dismissed a staff member for violation of the policy.
  • A third of policies have no guidelines for verifying user-generated content.
  • Policies are split on whether permission should be secured before publishing user-generated content.

Research Presentation