Social Silence

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Journalists are being heavily encouraged by employers to use social media platforms as a way of building presence and notability within society. However the combination of a contrasting private and professional life, individual responsibility and reprisals for posted content is eating away at journalistic expression. Dismissals of professionals such as Scott McIntyre and Marion Ives elevates a growing concern, creating a spiral of silence and self censorship within the industry.

Media organisations rely on social media policies as a guideline for professionals and as documentation for disciplinary proceedings if required. McIntyre’s dismissal took place after he posted ‘inappropriate and disrespectful’ tweets on Anzac Day last month. Managing director of the SBS Michael Ebeid gave reasonings for the outcome, stating that ‘he breached the broadcaster’s code of conduct and social media policy, and disobeyed an order to delete the posts.’ The primary concern in this case was McIntyre’s open affiliation with the SBS. Any offensive post or opinion has the potential to be misinterpreted by the public and could reflect negatively upon an organisation.

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In response, the public was divided between those supporting the lay off and others questioning the rights of employees engaging in free speech.

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Other media organisations have articulated editorial policies for social media like Facebook, Twitter and personal blogs and websites. Internationally, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and the BBC have all issued protocols for employees on technological platforms. The BBC distinguished between the sectors of private and professional life  recommending a visible disclaimer to outline if published content is personal.

In Australia, the ABC has adopted the same approach:

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The power of suggestion and influence is heavily embedded in journalistic practice. To ensure consistency and an effective use of social media platforms, each media organisation needs to ‘implement an unambiguous policy for the use of social media’ and ensure that journalists are aware of the implications and consequences that follow.

“Free speech is not a privilege, it’s a journalistic                                                                                 responsibility.”

                                                                                         –Jeff Jarvis

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An Eye In The Sky

Screen Shot 2015-05-28 at 5.55.55 pmThe drones have landed with journalists exploiting rapid technological advances as an innovative way of using aerial platforms for news gathering. Their use easily elevates the way in which news is reported, allowing for an increased accessibility to aerial footage and reporting. This new media tool has raised controversial debate regarding, legality, practicality and ethicality in its application in the journalism industry.

As a relatively new concept, the legal scholarship on this subject is still developing. In Australia, drone use for news gathering is purely restricted to CASA approved operators under UAV operating regulations. Currently, no media organisations have approval to operate drones in Australia; but many  organisations like ABC-TV hire officials for aerial filming.

The use of drones have the potential to create compelling and fantastic news stories for major conflict, civil unrest and disaster coverage. Granted their convenience, drone journalism can be considered to be a legitimate interference in aircraft space in disaster scenes or in times of crisis. Drone  journalism also offers a chance for abuse, especially in terms of safety and privacy.

Screenshot of a “Daily Drone” video report of tornado damage in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. The imagery was recorded from a MicroDrone.

Screenshot of a “Daily Drone” video report of tornado damage in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. The imagery was recorded from a MicroDrone.

In 2011, News Corporation established The Dailya tablet based digital news service, that was heavily criticised for intrusiveness and privacy concerns by the public.

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Drone use has created a new ethical minefield. The Professional Society of Drone Journalists (PSDJ) provides a code of ethics for drone journalism in Australia. It presents an ethical hierarchy as an additional layer to the traditional code presented by the MEAA in matters of news worthiness, safety, sanctity of law and public spaces, privacy and traditional ethics. Its reliability and effectiveness is questioned transcending Aristotle’s Golden Mean, relying on the inference of an individual to act accordingly.

The use of drones offers considerable advantages for journalists in news gathering and production. Albeit in its use, journalists should be mindful of the legal, safety and ethical implications that coincide and heed the ramifications it has on society.