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Twitter: Creating a balance
between reporting role and social life


by Jeff Kocur
The Zac Brown Band recently played to a full house at the Target Center in Minneapolis, and the Star Tribune’s critic gave a scathing review.

Reader comments attached to the story, though, exposed the writer’s dance between his snarky Twitter world and his professional responsibility to the readers.

A reader revealed the writer had tweeted several hours prior to the concert that “I had better start drinking now so I can get in the right mindset to give ZBB a fair review tonight.”

During the concert, he tweeted out things he did not like about the show. The covers, songs that went on too long, comments made by the band, & etc. littered the 20 plus tweets he sent out from the concert.

For me, this crossed a line I wanted to discuss with my kids as they engage more in Twitter as journalists.

Students know the social realm of Twitter and engage in it with little abandon, but do they, or professional journalists for that matter, know how to maintain a wall between their social lives and their reporting?

We are in the process of setting up some guidelines regarding twitter use for our students when they report on events for our newspaper or website, and I am asking the students some questions as they add language to our editorial policy.

• How can tweeting during an event you are covering as a reporter help your readers?

• In what ways can it enhance your reporting?

• Is there a difference between tweeting the scores and sending out a tweet after your team makes a good play?

• What are appropriate items to tweet during a live event a reporter covers for the newspaper or web?

• How much does the reporter have to disclose of his or her role? If he or she tweets from a personal account, should it be disclosed  her or she is reporting on the event? How does that happen? With a hashtag?

• How would other reporters and staff members hold students, who can’t maintain a clear distance from the story, accountable?

The Star Tribune review and preceding tweets by the reporter were instructive for my kids to read. They did not trust his review as much after seeing how cavalierly he crossed between the two worlds of a reporter and the social network.

Hopefully, it will help to influence their own behavior.

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*Editor’s note: This is part of a continuing series of rotating columns by commission members to appear Wednesdays. Megan Fromm will present best practices for teaching ethics; Jeff Kocur will discuss common problems student leaders and advisers face and how to overcome them; Candace Perkins Bowen will examine journalistic ties to teaching issues, like Common Core standards; Mark Goodman will write about current events and impact on law as it affects scholastic media and Marina Hendricks will address ethical issues and online journalism.






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