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Facebook Ethics

Like many other media organizations, the Tribune Co. is grappling with ethical issues raised by the use of Facebook and other forms of social media by its employees, or, as the case may be, it's "citizen contributors." This anonymous, optional survey recently went out to all Triblocal workers and gives you an idea of what concerns the company has. (One can't help but wonder if this, in part, is what prompted it.) But also note the question about discussing the Tribune in online forums; plans to hire more Triblocal reporters; and the question about whether reporters should also work as marketers.

*

This survey is designed to address specific ethics concerns about the print edition of Triblocal and Triblocal.com. Some of the survey questions are multiple choice and others require a brief essay. If you have additional comments please include them in the "Additional Comments on Triblocal Ethics" section at the conclusion of the Ethics Committee Survey.

A. Social Networking Web sites, including Facebook

I. Political Postings
Are political affiliations as broadcasted on Facebook more sensitive than any other affiliations on the site and others like it?

A. Yes
B. No

Should reporters be allowed to broadcast political affiliations on these sites (i.e. Liberal or Conservative in the "Political Views" section on Facebook)? Why or why not?

Should Facebook pages be allowed to display partisan positions if only a limited population (i.e. people that you approve of) can see it?

Is it appropriate to post photos that show you wearing political paraphernalia or with someone who is wearing political paraphernalia?

Do you think it is appropriate to post photos or be tagged in photos that show you in a political atmosphere, if you are not covering the event, like at an Obama or McCain rally?

II. Professional relationships/friendships
Is it okay to become on-line friends with people you interact with in an official capacity, such as city officials, school/park district personnel and employees of public relations firms? If a reporter is friends with them already, should they un-friend them or give them access to a limited profile view?

III. General Facebook Etiquette for Reporters
What do you believe is acceptable social networking behavior that doesn't compromise your position as a reporter?

As a reporter, should you discuss Tribune happenings, such as layoffs or the redesign, in an open non-Tribune on-line forum?

Do you think the ethics policy should contain clear guidelines about the type of personal information that can be posted on a social networking site?

Would enforcing a zero-tolerance policy regarding social networking sites make you think twice about working here? For example, if our ethics policy stated you could not belong to political groups on Facebook? Would that cause you to rethink your employment?

Would you change information you have posted on Facebook if you knew the people you interviewed for stories were reading it?

B. Reporters and personal blogging
Is there a conflict of interest if a reporter also keeps a blog? (circle one)

A. Yes, they shouldn't have them.
B. Yes, but as long as the blog does not cover the same topics as they report on, it is OK.
C. No, there is no problem with blogging on any topic as a reporter.

Should Triblocal reporters be allowed to blog on topics that aren't political in nature?

C. Reporting, working in your own community
As Triblocal prepares to hire more than a dozen new reporters, what precautions should be made for reporters that might work in the same area that they live? What procedures can be put in place in order to make sure there is no conflict of interest? Should Triblocal set up a system that calls for another reporter to step in and cover a sensitive issue, or where bias might exist? How would you design that system?

D. Marketing and Promoting Triblocal
Are there any conflicts of interest with being a reporter for Triblocal and marketing/promoting Triblocal? What are they?

E. Identifying and Distinguishing between contributors
Is the way we identify submissions from public relations firms adequate?

Should we consider changing the "citizen contributor" attribution to provide more information to our readers? Is there a better way, for example, to identify a parent who has written a story about their son or daughter or should contributors be identified by city if they specialize on one or two cities in particular?

Should we work to reduce the number of stories without bylines? How would we do that?

F. Additional Comments on Triblocal Ethics
(Please list your ethics questions below)



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Posted on December 8, 2008


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