An Ethical Guide to Social Media

I had my first taste of being behind at the helm of a non-profit organization's social media a few years ago. I had to get myself Twitter and Instagram accounts just so I could understand how these things worked without sinking my employer's brand in front of the greater online world. Skip one job later and I'm now a specialist managing another brand's social media. This time, it's all about higher education, specifically business school. 

We can probably all agree that most organizations have acknowledged by now that social media has grown beyond a small job for an intern. It's powerful, engaging, and ever-changing - appealing to nearly every demographic around the globe. More than half of us are on social and using multiple platforms, according to the Pew Research Center. 

While the code of ethics in mass media got its start after the Hutchins Commission more than 50 years ago, there has been very little guidance by news organizations addressing the significant change in how we report, consume, and engage with media today. Since the Hutchins Commission, the democratization of news through social media has completely changed the way information is shared. Yet, there is little to use as guiding principles in social media. 

In a final paper for this class, I plan to address this gap, articulate new guidelines that address key journalistic principles for social media, specifically in higher education. What I've seen from initial research are universities advising on areas that address a light code of ethics similar to what you might see from a news organization and combined with suggestions like the best time to post a Tweet. I will also address my own university employer and my own work within the business school.

This research will span university social media guidelines, but also from news organizations. Recent news on some poor publishing decisions by Gawker and Buzzfeed have brought to attention the lack of ethics guidelines that address these two news organizations' unique place in our culture. They both have foundations in entertainment and a strong social media presence, but are attempting to grow into more legitimate news sources.

While I cannot directly compare Gawker or Buzzfeed with a university, which aims to ultimately market a product, the ethical guidelines might draw on similar parallels. Ultimately, this paper is out of direct benefit to my professional life as I aim to apply the guidelines to the school which will help with my day to day work. My personal ethics guidelines were created in consideration of my work in social media, which will tie in nicely in this final paper. 

Stay tuned for the final result next month!

Emily Turner1 Comment