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Think before you tweet

Cody | March 1st, 2012

Social Media can be our best friend or our worst enemy. Sites like Twitter are now one of the most popular ways that people receive their news. Because of that, not only do news stations, and newspapers have their own company accounts but journalists who work for those media outlets have their own personal accounts as well. This is where things begin to get complicated. As a journalist, we are in the public eye and people look to us for information. When we are too personal with our personal Twitter accounts, that’s when people get in trouble.

We need to remember that as journalists, we are in the public eye and need to be aware of everything we say and do. To announce your personal beliefs or opinions via Twitter can not only put your foot in your mouth but may also cause the company you are working for to look foolish. For instance, during this year’s Super Bowl, former CNN analyst Roland Martin tweeted about a certain David Beckham H&M commercial that had aired.

He tweeted “If a dude at your Super Bowl party is hyped about David Beckham’s H&M underwear ad, smack the ish out of him! #superbowl.”

Of course this caused controversy and many people, including gay advocacy groups, felt that Martin’s remarks supported violence against the gay community. Martin responded to the comments saying that he had hated the game of soccer and was mocking the sport, not homosexuals. Nonetheless, CNN did not see it that way and suspended Martin indefinitely, saying their employee’s post was “regrettable and offensive.”

And this isn’t the first time we’ve seen this. In July of 2010, CNN’s Senior Editor of Mideast Affairs,Octavia Nasr, tweeted that she was “Sad to hear of the passing of Sayyed Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah.. One of Hezbollah’s giants I respect a lot…”

People criticized Nasr for perhaps showing sympathy towards the death of Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah and Hezbollah, an organization that the United States government labels as a terrorist group. Two days later, Nasr said that the tweet was “an error of judgment”. The next day, CNN fired Nasr and apologized for her tweets, saying it did not meet CNN’s editorial standards.

These are just two of many incidences where journalists have been fired, suspended, or ridiculed for voicing their personal opinion on social media sites. And it’s not just opinions that can get a journalist in trouble. Be careful re-tweeting as well because the information in that tweet may be wrong or untrue. Forwarding tweets that are not factual can hurt your reputation and credibility as a journalist.

Before writing anything online, including social media pages such as Facebook and Twitter, think about what you are about to type. Act respectfully and professionally just as you would when reporting via television, radio, and print.

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