Here is a situation that a business reporter could face.
A friend wants me to write a “positive” story about a major new business venture in town. He knows that I am with the community newspaper and his friends will see the story. In return, this friend will provide me with information that could turn into a bigger business story.
Plus my friend will do an on-camera interview that I, as my own videographer, can produce and post online to my community newspaper’s website.
Obviously, this connection can be – as they say – a “win-win” situation. Yet is it ethical?
GETTING THE STORY
While this is hypothetical, I know that there are examples of doing whatever it takes in order to “get the story.” Making up quotes, plagiarism and turning off-the-record comments into on-the-record ones are ways to get around sticky ethical issues.
Who cares about ethics? I better because if I don’t, then my reputation and that of the newspaper itself will be tarnished.
Social media has pushed business reporting into breaking news, on a national and international level, to lightning-fast levels. Cable television’s round-the-clock news cycle started this ball rolling years ago with CNN. I would say even at community newspapers, there is the challenge of breaking news via social media and maintaining the print product’s need.
BALANCING IT OUT
Accuracy is so important in journalism, period.
I’ve made my share of mistakes in this business and you have, too. It’s the human element. Accuracy and ethics do a lovely dance together. Making sure they tango in rhythm is important for solid business reporting, from community newspapers all the way up to major metros.
Having said that, here are a few suggestions toward maintaining a healthy tango with social media, business journalism and ethics:
- Make sure you have key information verified by at least two sources.
- Before Tweeting or blogging about a subject, get clear on what you want to say. Yes, even in 140 characters … it matters.
- Research your subject matter so that you can come from a place of awareness and knowledge. Even in a one-man shop, get clear about reporting on the subject whether it is the oil and natural gas industry, construction or small business owners.
- Ask for help. There is no need to play “The Lone Ranger” when dealing with touchy business subjects.
Well, this wraps up my time here for August. Thanks for reading these blog entries and I hope they have provided a view into community newspaper journalism from a business editor’s viewpoint.