Archive for the ‘Ethics’ Category


Ethics and authenticity

At NPR’s headquarters in Washington, two sets of keyboards, both connected to microphones, appear before a musician. He sits down and performs three tracks from his album – a performance that is as intimate as it gets, a performance that is powerful and can showcase talent.

His name is Sampha – a singer, songwriter and producer from south London who has come to DC for a Tiny Desk concert, part of the All Songs Considered series, and as it provided some very good background music as I made research calls today, it also made me think.

Although this is a performance, there is a lesson that can be taken from it for journalists – the ability to be authentic, amid the competition of being the first at everything.

In this age where social media has helped organizations disseminate news, information and other content, it has also been a more competitive environment. Who can get to Twitter the quickest with that exclusive or that first bit of new information? Who can I tell first about that story or that performance?

Its a tricky situation, because sometimes in the rush of getting it out there, some errors are made when it comes to information, or you feel because you wanted to be first you couldn’t do justice to the story you wanted to tell, or because that FOI officer with the government in San Diego didn’t respond to your request that an element of the story was missing. When all is said and done, you feel uneasy and concerned, wondering if you did your best work that day.

Allow me to say this: Breathe – it’s okay.

In this social media age, some emphasis has been made on likes for quantity, not quality. (Photo: Pixabay)

The Society’s Code of Ethics calls on journalists to seek truth and report it, that one should be responsible for the accuracy of the work, and that neither speed nor format excuses inaccuracy.

I think however in this social age it has become more than that. It is a reason to be authentic, to go in-depth, to do some uniquely awesome stuff for your audience.

Take these Tiny Desk concerts, for example – these concerts take time and precision. A performance cannot be rushed. A performance is a story, after all – you don’t want it to abruptly finish when clearly the storyteller has more to write or the performer has more to perform of the song.

You could also make the same argument for that interview on Fresh Air or that report you hear on All Things Considered or Morning Edition – stories and interviews that probe and provide context cannot be rushed, and shouldn’t end when there’s more to be seen.

There is room for these in-depth stories, and an appetite for them, whether its a long narrative in the New York Times, on NPR’s web site or in podcast form. Indeed, some of this in-depth stories recently helped NPR to achieve record audience figures.

Yet, in the world of in-depth stories, also exists is the world of deadlines – deadlines which must be met. Even if its a quick story you’re going to do, there still is an opportunity to be authentic. Ask yourself these questions:

  • What are some unanswered questions that come from it?
  • Is there an under-reported part of this story that can be incorporated? If it can’t be done immediately, can it be for a future story?
  • Is this angle just to help with space or time – or can it really help my audience understand the story better?

In this age of journalism, I favor stories that take time to tell – something that can go beyond what is reported daily. If that approach is taken, I know my audience will get something that is not just helping them understand the world around them, but I’m also offering something authentic.

So when you’re thinking about your story, take a step back. Think about the subject and the type of story you want to tell. Give yourself an excuse to go beyond the norm, and to experiment.

Then take the time to do it, channeling not just your role to seek truth and report it per the Ethics Code, but this – it is not only better to be right than be first, but to do something well instead of doing it at all.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member, is a member of SPJ’s Ethics Committee and a contributor to the SPJ blog network. 

Outside of SPJ, Veeneman is a Managing Editor and contributing writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital Community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

Ethics: Twitter style

Twitter has become essential for journalists, but the ethics rules haven’t changed. (Photo: Pixabay)

In spite of financial concerns outlined last week where its stock prices fell 11 percent, Twitter continues to play a dominant role in the world of journalism. Whether its consuming news, disseminating information or gathering material for a story, Twitter has become ubiquitous with journalism, while journalism has become an essential component of the business of social media.

Yet, while Twitter is still one of those new platforms, it isn’t exempt from the rules and ever-evolving practices of ethical journalism. Journalists need to remember to practice these ethics on the social networking platform, in an age where accusations of fake news and post-truth have had connotations for journalists working on the web.

The Society’s Code of Ethics encourages journalists to practice journalism through these four key principles – Seek truth and report it, minimize harm, act independently, and be accountable and transparent.

That said, here are five things to consider when disseminating information on Twitter – with a twist, done in 140 characters each (or less).

Be accurate: Neither speed nor format excuses inaccuracy, so take the time to make sure all of your facts are right before you post.

Be forthright: Don’t know something? Trying to confirm the accuracy of information? Tell your audience. An honest tweeter is a credible tweeter.

Be cautious: Ask yourself: Is the information you post helpful to your story? Will it inform? Or are you tweeting for the sake of tweeting?

Be accountable: We make mistakes – we’re human. If something is wrong, fix it. Issue a correction and explain what you did. Be upfront.

Be accurate: It’s so nice its worth saying twice! Remember the old maxim – it is better to be right than to be first.

Twitter can be helpful for journalists, but also hinder them. Keeping these key points in mind, you can make Twitter work for you and do the most important thing possible – seek truth and report it.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member, is a member of SPJ’s Ethics Committee and a contributor to the SPJ blog network. 

Outside of SPJ, Veeneman is a Managing Editor and contributing writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital Community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

An ethical resolution

Ethical journalism remains a quintessential part of society, and the SPJ Code of Ethics helps to reinforce it. (Image: Pixabay)

Journalism is in a quandary. As we prepare to say goodbye to 2016 and head into 2017, we do so with a challenge to the identity and culture of our profession. In light of the geopolitical headlines, notably with the recent US presidential election, we’re attempting to trace our next steps.

Writing in her column for the Society’s Quill magazine, SPJ national president Lynn Walsh says we have been challenged. Yet, in spite of it, there is opportunity abound.

“We, as journalists, have been challenged,” Walsh said. “And that means it’s our time to shine. We are not scum. We are not liars. We are not disgusting. We are not corrupt. We are professionals. We are protectors of the First Amendment. We are honest. We are compassionate.”

In this time of transition, it is a good time to stop, pause and reflect, and the SPJ Code of Ethics helps us to do just that. As I wrote over on the Generation J blog a couple of weeks earlier, it is a reminder of the principles of education, the quintessential component of journalism, the real reason why we seek to make careers for ourselves in this industry.

Yet, alongside its reminder for the need to educate, the Ethics Code reminds us of the simple principles that allows us to practice quality journalism — seek truth and report it, minimize harm, be accountable and transparent, and act independently.

With that in mind, here are some resolutions to keep in mind as we begin 2017.

Seek truth and report it: People still care about the facts. It isn’t about doing better than your competitor, but about informing and engaging the people that trust and come to you for information. Trust is sacrosanct, and to ensure it stays that way you must be meticulous with information. If you’re uncertain about something, check it. If you’re trying to confirm something, tell your audience that. Then pick up the phone and see what’s going on. It is better to be right about something and take the time to do it, than to say something and end up being wrong later.

Minimize harm: Every story as a pro and a con, and you have to consider what will best benefit the public’s interests, not your own. Consider the circumstances of an interview with an individual, and if it really helps your story. Avoid lurid curiosity, and be compassionate with others in their circumstances. Remember this line however most of all: “Pursuit of the news is not a license for arrogance or undue intrusiveness.”

Be accountable and transparent: We are humans, and like all humans, we make mistakes. We aren’t proud of them, but we make them. Remember always that if someone catches a mistake, acknowledge it, respond, and correct it. Keep the audience in the know about editorial conversations as it pertains to your story, and explain any decision making behind any story.

Act independently: Don’t be intimidated by a source. If you have a conflict of interest with a story, disclose it. Don’t pay for access to content to inform the public. Also, if you’re given something for free, refuse it, and consider the work you do outside of journalism, and ensure it doesn’t damage your credibility, integrity or impartiality.

The challenge that we have before us appears daunting. Though we don’t have the answers to all of the questions that are being asked in journalism, we have the opportunity to answer them. With the help of the Ethics Code, we can show the world why journalism continues to remain important, as it continues to evolve in the digital age.

We also can remind ourselves that it isn’t really about us, but instead the people who matter most of all — the audience.

Happy New Year to you and yours.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member, is SPJ’s Community Coordinator and is a contributor to the SPJ blog network. He also is a member of SPJ’s Ethics Committee.

Outside of SPJ, Veeneman is a Managing Editor and contributing writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Generation J Community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

Querying fact checking

At NPR's headquarters in Washington, its fact-checking transcript generated significant interest from audiences online. (Photo: Stephen Voss/NPR)

At NPR’s headquarters in Washington, its fact-checking transcript generated significant interest from audiences online. (Photo: Stephen Voss/NPR)

Geopolitics has been at the epicenter of the news the past few months, from the news of Britain’s referendum on leaving the European Union with a new Prime Minister, and the diplomatic conversations surrounding the conflict in Syria, to the closely watched campaigns for elections for president of the United States.

As the 8th of November nears, a subject that has been debated is that of fact-checking, and what role it should have in the context of modern political journalism. In the recent debate between Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, NPR had a running transcript with annotations going, the checks being communicated on Twitter, Facebook, and the web site.

When all was said and done, NPR achieved its highest traffic day ever, and the transcript got 7.4 million page views.

Beth Donovan, the supervising senior editor for its Washington Desk, who has worked on previous election output, said the public broadcaster had been trying to perfect engaging audiences when it came to fact-checking.

“Fact checking has long been a priority for NPR,” Donovan said in an interview by email. “Even before this particular race shaped up, we had been trying new things in the fact check lane in hopes of connecting with our audience and helping them engage with political rhetoric through this prism.”

Donovan said audiences had valued a second screen accompaniment to live events, and this fact-checking feature was a way to hone NPR’s engagement strategy. She says similar plans will be in the works for the forthcoming debate this weekend and the final debate later this month.

“There was a transparency to our fact check, people could see us highlighting facts we were about to check (as well as a lot of typos in the first and even second draft of the transcription),” Donovan said. “The audience could see the statement in context, our journalism, and source links. And the page kept moving and changing right on your phone.”

While there was success for NPR in its engagement strategy, it came amid some concerns, before and after the debate was over. The fact-checking annotations commenced amid concerns of trust in the media, according to a study from the Pew Research Center.

In addition, after the debate, concerns had been raised by the ombudsman Elizabeth Jensen, who, in addition to some listeners, said some questions were missed, despite the best efforts of reporters and editors in Washington. Donovan said her team did the best they could under the circumstances, even as concerns of bias were prevalent.

“We just do our best every day to cover the news and to report fairly and accurately,” Donovan said. “Fact checking is no different.”

Yet, Donovan notes, there is difficulty in accomplishing such a task.

“Even in a news room with as much policy depth as NPR’s, live fact checking is hard,” Donovan said. “The biggest challenges are often the littlest things.”

However, Donovan says, there is something that makes it all worthwhile — the drive and collaboration between its journalists.

“It can look easy or obvious the next day, but watching our annotated transcript come to life was inspiring,” Donovan said. “This is a remarkable newsroom. I always feel especially proud to be part of it on debate nights and in breaking news situations.”

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member and founder of SPJ Digital, is SPJ’s Community Coordinator and is a contributor to the SPJ blog network. 

Outside of SPJ, Veeneman is a Managing Editor and contributing writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

Accuracy in an algorithmic age

In order for it to be effective with users, Facebook must present accurate and fair information. (Photo: Pixabay)

In order for it to be effective with users, Facebook must present accurate and fair information. (Photo: Pixabay)

This week, it emerged that the editors behind the Trending Topics section at Facebook had been fired, and that the algorithm would be at the core of finding stories that users would want to hear about.

It hasn’t gone quite as planned. The notable instance came last Saturday about a story surrounding the Fox News presenter Megyn Kelly. It had been reported that she had been removed from her position after she said she was supporting the Democratic presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton.

That story was not true, emerging from the EndingFed news web site, a web site that had not been listed on the trusted media sources list utilized by editors, according to a report from The Guardian newspaper in Britain.

There were also concerns of content that would be offensive also being a part of the trending topics, including a man filmed doing a questionable act with a McChicken sandwich from McDonald’s.

Many users around the world look to Facebook for news on the go, and to engage in conversation about that information with their friends. Because the social network is a significant platform in the dissemination, it is bound by the principles of journalistic ethics, even though it is not a media company itself. The principle extends to the information that is made available in the trending topics section.

The SPJ Code of Ethics says this about the release of information:

“Neither speed nor format excuses inaccuracy.”

The public are entitled to accurate information to help them over the course of their day, no matter the subject.

Yet, The Guardian report adds, the dismissal of the editors was said to be a long-term plan, with a source saying that the trending module would have learned from curators’ decisions and be fully automated.

The relationship that Facebook and the public has when it comes to the algorithm has proven to be controversial. While it is mutually beneficial for news organizations and the social network to have content appear for the purposes of engagement, the public are still entitled to accurate and fair journalism, no matter how they are consuming it.

It is therefore imperative that Facebook exercises these ethics and emphasizes the need for accurate and fair information. In spite of the toxic workplace concerns raised, the editors who helped curate those trending topics helped the social network do a service in ensuring the information that was made available was accurate.

If Facebook wants to have a better relationship with its users, and indeed the wider journalism community, not only must it be transparent, but it also must be an advocate for accurate information, and showcase it in its trending topics. Otherwise, Facebook will become simply something commonplace in digital media today — just another social network.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member and founder of SPJ Digital, is SPJ’s Community Coordinator and is a contributor to the SPJ blog network. 

Outside of SPJ, Veeneman is a Managing Editor and contributing writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

A transparent Facebook

Facebook should appoint a public editor for the interests of not just news organizations, but audiences. (Photo: Pixabay)

Facebook should appoint a public editor for the interests of not just news organizations, but audiences. (Photo: Pixabay)

It has become a common theme for Facebook in the past few weeks. Another day comes, and with it comes another change to its algorithm.

The most recent change came this week, when the social network announced its plans to combat clickbait by examining headlines of articles. Some types of headlines would be considered clickbait, including, according to a blog post on its corporate web site, those headlines that are misleading or withhold specific aspects of information.

Quoted in The New York Times, Adam Mosseri, Facebook’s vice president for product management, which oversees the News Feed, said the change was made with users’ interests in mind.

“We want publishers to post content that people care about, and we think people care about headlines that are much more straightforward,” Mosseri said.

This had raised some concerns with publishers, as well as additional concerns that they did not have insight into the decision making behind the algorithm changes, according to the Times report.

Mosseri said that he met regularly with publishers to discuss such changes, and that Facebook would be more transparent about its changes. Indeed, while transparency is all well and good, more needs to be done for a platform that has a significant influence in the relationship between consumer and news organization.

Earlier this year, I wrote a post for this blog advocating a public editor post be created within Facebook, a post that would, according to New York based journalism professor Jeff Jarvis, not edit per se, but be a voice for the public. I renew that advocacy with this post.

A creation of such a role (or perhaps multiple roles), similar to what is being done at organizations like the Times and at The Guardian, would ensure Facebook be truly transparent.

Indeed, the SPJ Code of Ethics, where under the section “Be Accountable and Transparent,” calls for a conversation about news coverage, content and journalistic practices. Even though Facebook itself is not a conventional media company, the rule should apply to them, considering the influence it has on the dissemination of information to users, as well as engagement strategies in various newsrooms.

As such, a creation of a public editor role would, in my view, support this call, and allow Facebook to be honest with not just its audience, but publishers as well, and allow for a full conversation about what role the social network can have in the future of this industry. With this role, we can understand the algorithm changes better, have our say on the changes, and help make the algorithm beneficial for the people who we serve — our audience.

While the same can be said for Twitter, Google and other platforms, having Facebook create a public editor role would be significant in the world of social media journalism, and perhaps others can follow their lead.

The idea and the call is there. The decision on whether a public editor role should be created, however, is solely in Mark Zuckerberg’s court.

Your move, Facebook.

Editor’s note: This post was amended at 4:04pm CT on August 7 to add that The Guardian also has the post of a global readers editor.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member and founder of SPJ Digital, is SPJ’s Community Coordinator and is a contributing blogger to Net Worked on social media’s role in the future of journalism. 

Outside of SPJ, Veeneman is a Managing Editor and contributing writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

Now streaming: The world

They have been common occurrences in our Facebook feeds over the last few weeks — a news organization, journalist or publisher on the social network sends a notification to its fans that its live doing an event or doing a Q&A on a subject.

Whether its The New York Times discussing the future of Apple amid the conclusion of the company’s 13 year growth streak or the BBC World Service interviewing a German historian about the country’s past, live-streaming has become a new way for news organizations to engage audiences in conversations, as well as inform them about particular events.

The adapting of live streaming in social strategies comes as video becomes an integral part of social engagement, either through videos curated through Snapchat’s Discover channels, segments posted on Twitter or even short clips on Facebook and Instagram. Video has become a core part of engaging audiences on social, no matter the event, and live streaming would become an essential component of it.

Indeed, for video, its not just limited to coverage of news events and Q&As. Recently, Twitter announced that it would live stream 10 NFL games over the course of the next season, a move that is likely going to indicate more Twitter based content and video from news organizations and reporters who cover sports, not just for the NFL, but for all sports, including the forthcoming Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

More people are seeing journalism through live streaming, especially on Facebook. (Photo: Pixabay)

More people are seeing journalism through live streaming, especially on Facebook. (Photo: Pixabay)

Additionally, more live streams are likely to come from news organizations, whether its leading up to the final primaries, conventions, and indeed, the general election in November in the US, or towards the forthcoming referendum in the UK on its membership in the European Union, and its geopolitical implications. Live streaming is at the core for the strategy of social platforms, long marketed as hubs for the events that shape the world in real time.

Video continues to be key in engagement on social platforms. As a result, live streaming will be at its core, and those notifications you see on Facebook, and those posts about live coverage on Twitter, won’t be going away anytime soon.

While this remains mutually beneficial for both news organizations and indeed social networks, there is still a significant responsibility for news organizations when it comes to this content. If the content you produce is fair, accurate, impartial, and transparent, it will resonate with your audiences.

As I wrote in the lead up to SPJ’s Ethics Week (held last week), the influence of social media is still felt in today’s journalism, and the rules of ethics still apply, even if its on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat or a different social platform.

After all, the content you produce for these platforms is not just to help engagement and the social strategy, but to do what all journalism does irrespective of platform — inform, educate and enlighten

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member and founder of SPJ Digital, is SPJ’s Community Coordinator and is a contributing blogger to Net Worked on social media’s role in the future of journalism. 

Outside of SPJ, Veeneman is Long Form Editor and a contributing writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

The SPJ Ethics Code applies to Twitter too

SPJ's Ethics Week, held next week, is an important time to remember the Code of Ethics, and how they apply to reporting on Twitter. (Photo: SPJ)

Ethics Week is an important time to remember the Code of Ethics, and how they apply to Twitter. (Photo: SPJ)

Next week is Ethics Week here at SPJ, a time to celebrate the Code of Ethics, and to examine and consider its four principle values in journalism — to seek truth and report it, minimize harm, be accountable and transparent, and act independent.

The subject for this year’s Ethics Week is best practices in new technology, including social media. Social media, most notably Twitter, has had significant influence in not just how people consume journalism, but how it can enhance the journalism that we practice. We use Twitter to curate conversations, reach out to sources, but most importantly, report, engaging audiences through 140 character messages, challenging and complementing the traditional means of storytelling.

It is therefore important to consider the four principles of the SPJ Code of Ethics and how they apply to journalism by Twitter.

Seek truth and report it: Twitter is another platform for your journalism, and the rules for fair, impartial reporting apply. Report what you know. If you are reporting while trying to confirm a specific piece of information, tell your audience about the report, credit the report, and say you are working to confirm it. Additionally, for curating conversations, ensure all sides of the conversation are being shared. As my SPJ colleague Lynn Walsh wrote here earlier this year, look for all sides of the conversation as you would for any other story.

Most importantly, accuracy is key. It is more important to be right rather than be the first one with the story. Your audience will thank you for it.

Minimize harm: When it comes to breaking news, including disasters, you should be respectful of your sources as if you were interviewing them face to face. If you are asking for an interview over Twitter, be considerate in the language you use to ask for an interview. If the source declines, move on.

When interviewing, show compassion for those who have been impacted by events, and consider if the information you are being told is important to the story you’re telling. In this case, not everything you’re told is essential, so consider what is necessary to inform while balancing the privacy of a source.

Be accountable and transparent: Honesty is a quintessential part of the relationship between you and your audience. As I wrote here last month, an honest reporter is a forthright reporter, and audiences appreciate forthright reporters, for they’ll trust you and come back to you for information in the future. Do not be afraid to cite — do it early and often. Identify all of the angles. If there is a mistake, own up to it and correct it. Don’t let it wait.

Honesty is the best policy — and it will serve you well. You know what you know, and that is all that you know.

Act independent: Disclose any conflict of interests with your audience, and if you encounter a source on Twitter that pays you for information, refuse it. As mentioned earlier, cite and identify your reports clearly and correctly, and distinguish between what is news and what is advertising.

Most importantly, tell the story the way it is meant to be told, without bias or pressure to influence coverage, irrespective of beat, and reject pressure raised by advertisers, donors, organizations, or others that would impact your story.

Twitter has shaped how we practice journalism today in many ways. We must be able to practice it the way it should be practiced — fairly, impartially, accurately, and ethically, no matter the platform, not just for us, but ultimately the people we work for, our audiences.

Ethics Week is April 24-30. SPJ’s Ethics Committee will have blog posts on the subject over the course of the week on Code Words, the Committee’s blog.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member and founder of SPJ Digital, is SPJ’s Community Coordinator and is a contributing blogger to Net Worked on social media’s role in the future of journalism. 

Outside of SPJ, Veeneman is Long Form Editor and a contributing writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

The art of live tweeting

As Twitter prepares to celebrate its tenth birthday, its influence on journalism is significant. As part of a series leading up to its tenth birthday, SPJ Digital is looking at Twitter’s influence, as well as best practices and advice.

Here, SPJ’s Alex Veeneman revisits Britain’s general election to highlight the best practices of live tweeting and credible reporting on the platform.

British Prime Minister David Cameron won a majority in Britain's general election, something that drew a lot of attention on Twitter. (Photo: russavia/Wikimedia Commons)

British Prime Minister David Cameron won a majority in Britain’s recent general election, something that drew a lot of attention on Twitter.
(Photo: russavia/Wikimedia Commons)

May 7, 2015. As the clock struck 5pm on the East Coast, over in the UK, polls closed in the general election, and a predicted exit poll result no one had predicted appeared. David Cameron, whose Conservatives shared a coalition government with the Liberal Democrat party for the last five years, was set to receive almost a majority of seats in the House of Commons.

At 7pm ET, as the ballots continued to be counted and results came in through constituencies up and down the UK, my colleague, Current Affairs Editor Kirstie Keate, and I took to Twitter for Kettle Magazine to live tweet election results, as well as examine the implications the results would have on voters, as well as British politics itself.

Live tweeting during a developing story or breaking news event consists of the delicate balance of engaging audiences but also informing and adding something of value, something that they can’t get with another platform. In the digital age, the balance of curating a story on Twitter whilst reporting for another platform is something that is trying to be perfected.

That being said, here are some things to consider when live tweeting, and to allow your coverage to stand out:

Monitor sources: In breaking or developing stories, reporting accurate information is crucial. Monitor sources to see the root of information. Try to confirm it, and report on Twitter citing the sources. An honest reporter is a forthright reporter.

Plan ahead: Have conversations with the team you’re working with before the night of a live tweeting to develop ideas. What stands out? What can help create value? Bounce ideas off of each other. Not everything has to be set before the coverage develops — you can even bounce ideas while you’re in coverage mode. Kirstie and I had conversations before election night and spoke during, exchanging ideas and discussing angles. Again, not everything has to be set, but its better to have an idea and be ready to adapt that idea for what is ahead.

Alex Veeneman of Kettle Magazine says live tweeting says honesty with your audience on Twitter will keep them coming back. (Photo via Twitter)

Alex Veeneman of Kettle Magazine says honesty with your audience on Twitter will keep them coming back. (Photo via Twitter)

Look at key story elements: Consider key points in a story to evaluate and follow up on. For example, in our general election coverage, Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats struggled with the issue of university tuition fees, something they promised to repeal, but instead were raised when they were in a coalition.

As they targeted the student vote, the party’s response to fees was something students considered, so their views on election night helped develop an interesting part of the narrative, and helped audience engagement.

Be careful when you post: When you are live tweeting, you need to consider the importance of what is posted. Is there value in what you are going to post, or are you posting for the sake of posting? Will that post truly help your audience understand the story better? Consider before you compose.

Be honest: You may be working on a different platform, but its still reporting. Be honest with your audience. If you don’t know something, mention the reports and try to confirm it. Report what you know. As I said earlier, an honest reporter is a forthright reporter, and audiences appreciate forthright reporters, for they will come back to you after your coverage is over.

By the time our coverage concluded, a small number of constituencies remained, but it was clear — the political landscape in Britain would be changing. The Conservatives would get their majority in the Commons while the Liberal Democrats lost a majority of their seats. In addition, the Labour Party had to figure out their next steps, and the Scottish National Party made significant gains, becoming a force to be reckoned with.

One other thing was clear as well. We engaged with our audience in new ways, showing how important Twitter is in not just communicating with audiences, but also in reporting a story, showing the power the social network can have in major events. Though no story is alike, these tips hopefully will allow news organizations and reporters to do one common thing — inform, educate and enlighten audiences, no matter where they are.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member and founder of SPJ Digital, is SPJ’s Community Coordinator and is a contributing blogger to Net Worked on social media’s role in the future of journalism. 

Outside of SPJ, Veeneman is Long Form Editor and a contributing writer on journalism and media issues for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

Editor’s note: This piece was amended on March 22, 2016 at 9:13pm CT to correct a caption.

Tweet responsibly: Consider the ethics code

As Twitter prepares to celebrate its tenth birthday, its influence on journalism is significant. As part of a series leading up to its tenth birthday, SPJ Digital is looking at Twitter’s influence, as well as best practices and advice.

Here, SPJ President-Elect Lynn Walsh shares tips when it comes to sharing and curating a story. 

As it prepares 10, Twitter is regarded essential for journalists. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons under CC license)

As it prepares 10, Twitter is regarded essential for journalists. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons under CC license)

By now, I think it’s fair to say most people are on board and understand the important role social media can play in journalism. From helping journalists obtain information and connect with sources to providing an online space to share information quickly, around the world, social media, especially Twitter, is a journalists friend.

As we have learned, a tweet can be as powerful as a headline story in a major newspaper. Some may argue Twitter users are also more forgiving of mistakes or errors, but that doesn’t mean we, as journalists or bloggers, should be less diligent about what we are sharing on the social media site.

RTing:
Attribute. If you are sharing someone else’s story, give them credit. This goes for publication and/or individual journalists. Also, attribute to and mention people involved in the story directly, including their usernames in the Tweet. In breaking news, attribute quotes and information whenever possible.

Confirm. This is especially important in breaking news situations. Just because there are 100-plus tweets saying one thing, if you or your news agency cannot confirm, I would wait to RT. Or make sure you are attributing or making it clear where the information is coming from. You could also tweet it, but say you are working to confirm.

SPJ president-elect Lynn Walsh says a tweet is powerful in the digital age, and standards should apply with anything you write. (Photo via Twitter)

SPJ president-elect Lynn Walsh says a tweet is powerful in the digital age, and standards should apply with anything you write. (Photo via Twitter)

Share developments. If you say you are working to confirm, be sure to follow-up with your followers with new developments. This is extremely important when it comes to breaking news or when you are live tweeting. For daily stories, if there are big developments, be sure to share those, even if you are no longer covering the story for your news organization.

Be fair. Are you sharing both sides of the story? Are you only RTing certain individuals? Could there be others, with different opinions you should also be sharing? Fairness is one goal, you as a journalist, should aim for. Look for all side of the story on Twitter and the people representing them just like you would any other story.

Corrections:
Make them. While it is never fun to be incorrect, the best thing to do is correct the information when you are. It can be hard but it’s important. Even if it is a misspelling, send out a follow-up Tweet with the correction.

Be timely. As soon as you realize something was incorrect, fix it and fix it on every platform. Not just in the web script or TV script, on Twitter and social media too. We are quick to share news, let’s be quick to correct anything we got wrong.

Clarify. Maybe you weren’t incorrect but for some reason the tweet is confusing your followers. Be sure to respond and clarify the information. You can do this by responding directly to people or sending out new Tweets explaining or clarifying.

Mention. If there was something I corrected and you named people directly, be sure to include them in the correction so their followers can see it as well.

Even though the posts are short, they can be powerful. Use the same standards you would with anything you write and as you prepare your next 140 character post, don’t forget about the SPJ Code of Ethics.

Share responsibly my friends.

Lynn Walsh is President-Elect of the Society of Professional Journalists and a member of the SPJ Ethics and FOI committees. Outside of SPJ, she leads the Investigations team at KNSD, the NBC owned station in San Diego. You can connect with Walsh on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

Connect

Twitter Facebook Google Plus RSS Instagram Pinterest Pinterest LinkedIn


© Society of Professional Journalists. All rights reserved. Legal

Society of Professional Journalists
Eugene S. Pulliam National Journalism Center, 3909 N. Meridian St., Indianapolis, IN 46208
317/927-8000 | Fax: 317/920-4789 | Contact SPJ Headquarters | Employment Opportunities | Advertise with SPJ