Posted in journalism, Social Media

When Social Media Bites Back

By Benét J. Wilson, DJTF chair & freelance aviation journalist/blogger

Yesterday I got a call from a friend who is a reporter at a major metro newspaper.  He was calling to get my thoughts on the controversy over NABJ member and CNN commentator Roland Martin’s tweets on Super Bowl Sunday, which some found to be homophobic. You can read about the situation in Richard Prince’s Journal-isms.

My friend is a great reporter and I’ve been trying to get him more active in social media to enhance his journalistic efforts.  I’m a big fan of social media, especially Facebook and Twitter.  I feel that both of them have helped me write better stories, interact with my readers and put a human face behind the reporter.   I wanted my friend to also reap the benefits of social media, but he has always been wary.

I told him that I understood his concerns, especially because since our conversation, Martin has been suspended over his remark.  But if done following some simple guidelines, social media can help you — not hurt you.

My biggest piece of advice is never write/tweet/post anything you wouldn’t want your grandmother or an employer to read — or have printed on the front page of the New York Times, which covered the Martin story.

I like the fact that social media gives people a sense of my personality and allows me to be part of a community. I feel that Martin’s 92,000 followers feel the same about his tweets.  But you need to come up with your own social media posting guidelines. I avoid politics, religion, sexual orientation and my family life.

On my aviation and journalism accounts, I stick to those topics. But I’ll also do an occasional aside, like a song on my iPod (“Unchained Melody,” the Righteous Brothers), a book (Shanghai Girls, by Lisa See) or article I’m reading (“Technique: Wind Warrior,AOPA Pilot magazine) or the random post on the number of days until Christmas (319) or this year’s NABJ Convention (132). If you have to ask if you should post it, then don’t.

I feel that Twitter has been a big factor in the establishment of my brands in aviation, where I’m @AvQueenBenet and in journalism, where I created and oversee the @NABJDigital account.  In the end, it’s pretty simple — if you have to ask if you should post something, then don’t.  So I ask you — what are some of your tips for keeping your social media accounts under control?

Check out some of our past social media blog posts, below.

Twitter Intrigue

Make Sure There’s No Shame In Your Social Media Game

Separate But Equal: Juggling the Personal and Professional with Social Media

The Thin Social Media Line

Friday Fast Five: The Social Media Edition



Home of the National Association of Black Journalists's (NABJ's) Digital Journalism Task Force

2 thoughts on “When Social Media Bites Back

  1. I was a “Content Editor” from 2004 – 2009 when social media was going through much controversy and my title ultimately changed to “Web Editor” once my editor at a Dow Jones daily newspaper property finally figured out that what I was doing on both sides of the house (print and digital) was a full-time job … for each side of the house.

    I learned a lot about social media by designing, developing and managing a community social engagement site that received first place for Best Community Engagement from the Society of Professional Journalists in the 2010 awards cycle,

    I persuaded my newsroom colleagues to blog, engage in Facebook and Twitter and let their personalities become part of the attraction to our community paper. It worked well. Very well.

    But there were some rules, like the standard advice you provided in this blog post. Journalists should always keep in mind that they are de facto ambassadors of their employer. Journalists don’t have the luxury of engaging folks incognito in a public arena with the full scope of their personality laid bare.

    Media orgs must cultivate trust and loyalty in their brand to build value. Every employee in the value chain holds some amount of that branding in their hands. Journalists hold a large amount. Anything a journalist does (or says) to negatively impact the branding of a media org will likely result in a decision being made by someone who values the brand far more than the journalist. It pays to never lose sight of the fact that a media org is a business. And no amount of diversity advocacy trumps a decision made to protect the bottom line.

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