A revision of the Star's newsroom Policy and Journalistic Standards has been approved by the publisher and editor, and will be disseminated in a week or two after final editing. Given the exercise in democracy that's under way, it was decided to inform you now of the new passage on social media, which goes into effect immediately. The gist is that our overall standards of fairness, balance and impartiality apply on social media. As with all policies, if you have any doubt, you should consult your department head or someone in senior management.
Here is the new media passage:
Social media tools such as blogs, Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook can be valuable sources for story ideas and contacts for journalists, and as a means of connecting directly with the communities we cover.
The Star encourages journalists – reporters, columnists, photographers and editors – to take advantage of social media tools in their daily work.
These tools blur the line between public and private activity – in fact, that is one of their main benefits – so it is important to understand that the information published on any social media platform can be circulated beyond their intended audience. Anything a Star journalist posts on social media sites reflects on the writer and the Star in the same way any other published work does.
Building trust in the digital world demands that the Star is seen to be transparent. When reporting breaking news through social media, the source of the information should be included and readers must be told if the information has not yet been verified by the Star. If such information is subsequently found to be inaccurate, that should be communicated through those same social media tools as soon as possible.
All of the standards and responsibilities of Star journalists outlined elsewhere in this policy guide also apply to social media platforms.
Never post information on social media that could undermine your credibility with the public or damage the Star’s reputation in any way, including as an impartial source of news. Such postings could be construed by readers as evidence that the Star’s news coverage is biased. Remember, readers will hold the Star responsible for its staff participation in social media.
Anything published on social media – whether on Star sites or personal platforms – cannot reveal information about content in development, newsroom issues or Star sources. Negative commentary about your colleagues or workplace will not be tolerated.
If you have doubts, check with a senior editor before posting. As is detailed in the section on sources, remember that material gathered online might not be accurate, just as can happen with some material collected or received in more traditional ways. As always, consider and verify the source.
Also of relevance to the election and to social media use is our policy that when gathering information for publication, we identify ourselves as Star journalists.
And, two other particularly relevant policies:
Under the Opinions and The News section, the Blogs and Tweets passage says: Blogs and tweets of Star columnists, reviewers and editorial writers may include their opinions, subject to the rights and responsibilities of fair comment. Journalists who report for the Star should not editorialize on the topics they cover, as readers could could construe this as evidence that their news reporting is biased. As well, journalists should refrain from debating issues within the Star's online comments forum to avoid any suggestion that they may be biased in their reporting.
And under Outside Positions and Interests, please note this passage: Care should be exercised by all editorial staff, but particularly those reporting the news, to avoid any open endorsement of any political candidate or cause, including personal comments in online and social media media platforms.
Avoid participation in demonstration or signing of petitions, including online petitions and social media campaigns.
Star employees should not make contributions to a political campaign if they might be called upon to cover the campaign. (Bear in mind that such contributions are often subject to public disclosure.)
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