Friday, March 14, 2014

6 digital ethics issues: What's your take?

Digital journalism ethics is a fascinating and challenging topic, because there are no specific guidelines for many of the issues modern journalists face every day. This means a lot of experimentation coupled with thoughtful, deliberate choices -- and above all, tons of dialogue.

I don't know the answers. My opinions might change tomorrow. Every story seems to bring up different questions, and different people have different opinions.

I recently chatted with Ivan Lajara, one of Digital First Media's leaders in digital journalism. We talked about six important and common ethical issues related to digital journalism. Here are some interesting ideas he shared on the topics, as well as some other things to think about.

1. Retweeting the scanner:

Lajara: This one's easy. NO, NEVER. You can point to it, if you'd like. They're online. But a report of "multiple shootings" can always simply just be a faulty exhaust pipe freaking out a neighborhood. Use it like you use twitter. A good starting point to start reporting.

CounterpointMy newsroom regularly tweets live from the scanner. 

In fact, scanner reports are almost part of reporter Mitch Byers's brand, and certainly a contributing reason for his nearly 3,000 followers. 

Is this ethical? Is this good journalism? What do you think? 

Of course, we don't tweet everything -- but the scanner is public info, and anyone else can hear it, too. What if it were the police department's Twitter account? How is it different reposting scanner information, attributed as such, than retweeting a police twitter post?  

These aren't rhetorical questions. I am truly curious to hear opinions on this.