In General: Presenting news and giving an opinion are two different things. As far as I know, journalism is about both! Even when the likes of Twitter and Facebook were not there, journalists across the world were using the ‘power of the pen’ to express opinions on social, political, economic, cultural and all other sorts of issues. Why else are opinion polls so important during elections? The comments made by leading journalists and editors have always and will continue to influence the masses.
So why now are we debating whether journalists can have opinions or not…and that too published on a personal level and not under the newspaper’s name? The Washington Post obviously does not want its reporters to post their opinions on social media like Twitter, Facebook or blogs. According to a strict social media guideline (honestly, these are not guidelines but strict restrictions) issued by the newspaper, “Washington Post journalists are always Washington Post journalists”, implying that they have no right to personal opinions??
This guideline was issued when one of their Managing Directors – Raju Narisetti – made a couple of tweets about a political issue:
We can incur all sorts of federal deficits for wars and what not. But we have to promise not to increase it by $1 for healthcare reform? Sad.
Sen Byrd (91) in hospital after he falls from “standing up too quickly.” How about term limits. Or retirement age. Or commonsense to prevail.
The guidelines say, “All Washington Post journalists relinquish some of the personal privileges of private citizens. Post journalists must recognize that any content associated with them in an online social network is, for practical purposes, the equivalent of what appears beneath their byline in the newspaper or on our website”. Do you think it’s right to give-up your right of having and expressing a personal opinion just because you work for the media? Does this mean that journalists should not talk to others in social gatherings or have a casual discussion over the dinner table, just because “whatever they say is coming from the media they work for”…highly ridiculous and questionable I think!!!
What I personally feel (and yes you can “quote” me on that) is that news reporters, while writing for the media, must be careful as to not get too biased when presenting facts and the news, per say. If, however, they are writing a feature that is opinion based, it is fair for them to express their opinion in the ‘right’ manner. Right here could imply not being abusive or absurd. When it comes to social media, journalists should have the right (just like all of us) to write whatever they wish to, subject to consideration for the newspaper’s and their own image (even i’m cautious not to write something stupid that will embarrass me later…duhhh!!!!)…and honestly, wouldn’t most journalists be educated and mature enough to know what the repercussions of writing something absolutely out of line can be?? The point is not to have restrictions but proper training that ensures that journalists understand their responsibilities as being a media representative. Afterall, the social media is not our living room or the office water cooler. In fact, the same sense of caution applies to employees in any organisation, as they are its biggest advocates.
It’s weird that The Washington Post’s website has an ‘opinions’ tab…now I’m beginning to wonder if the opinions published there are really those of the writers or manipulated by the paper! Well, I can’t figure out as I have to register for this column (it’s free) and they want to know my year of birth and my primary job responsibilities, so they can better target useless ads at me …now that’s another story!!!