Whether you refer to it as eyewitness media or user-generated content (UGC), news content found on social platforms is an unprecedented resource to journalists everywhere.
Yet so far, there has been a lack of ethical standards and best practices for media outlets using this content that reach across the board.
Especially in light of breaking news events like the recent bombings in Brussels, Ankara, Lahore and Yemen, the need to build a set of strong ethical guidelines for newsrooms worldwide is more evident than ever. In situations like these, it’s easy for an falsified video or photo of an attack to be proliferated as true. Witnessing the sometimes graphic imagery in UGC can also endanger journalists’ psychological well-being.
That’s why the Online News Association (ONA) recently released its social newsgathering ethics code, a project years in the making.
“Moments like these challenge us, as journalists, to tell a fast-moving story in a way that’s informative, detailed and accurate,” wrote Eric Carvin, social media editor at the Associated Press and one of the code’s architects. “These days, a big part of that job involves wading through a roiling sea of digital content and making sense out of what we surface.”
The code covers 10 key issues inherent in social newsgathering, from verification of eyewitness content — and being transparent about said verification — to obtaining informed consent of the individuals who create this content. Newsrooms of any size can develop a standard for reaching out to eyewitnesses, negotiating content usage, crediting content creators and more.
Several news organizations have endorsed ONA’s ethics code so far, including Storify, The Guardian, The BBC, CNN and more. News outlets can choose to become a supporter of the code and be listed on the code’s homepage to signify that they’ve adopted it in their own newsroom.
Click here to check out the full code.
Main image CC-licensed by Flickr via michael davis-burchat.