Tweet with integrity.
Mike Farrell, professor at the University of Kentucky and director of the Scripps Howard First Amendment Center, visited UT on Tuesday to discuss the "New Ethics of New Media" and the intersection between social media and journalism as part of UT's Social Media Week.
Hosted by the College of Communications and Information and the Society of Professional Journalists, Farrell sought to answer questions regarding the ethics of social media journalism as they compare to those of traditional journalism.
In the early days of social media, visitors typically used the sites to share and discuss their lives through pictures, personal words, videos and audio.
However, Farrell asserted platforms like Facebook and Twitter have now become breeding grounds for news stories, allowing journalists and reporters to directly communicate with their audience.
"News organizations are beginning to adapt to the new environment," he said. "The range of topics on Facebook is broad."
Farrell acknowledged these changes have also blurred lines between acceptable and unacceptable conduct in online reporting.
To clarify that boundary, Farrell posed five scenarios involving Twitter and Facebook, asking the audience to determine when and if the hypothetical journalist broke the SPJ's Code of Ethics.
"The groups seemed to have trouble knowing exactly if their situation was ethical or unethical," Shea Kolosky, junior in advertising, said. "It shows how hard it must be to determine the ethicality of social platforms."
As these platforms emerged, Farrell said the organization had to adjust their code accordingly. But over time, SPJ grew weary of the adjustments, instead choosing to focus solely on the core ethics of the industry rather than the ethics of every medium.
"We decided that instead of talking about social media, we should talk about journalism," Farrell said. "It's a way of being able to have a code that does not have to be updated every five years."
Melanie Faizer, lecturer in journalism and electronic media, agreed.
"The biggest takeaway," she said, "was that ethics don't change just because of technology's transience."