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October 11, 2006 in management
Over the past year, I’ve talked a lot about blogging policies at news organizations. The short version: You need one. I wrote an article for the latest issue of “Keeping Free Presses Free,” a publication of College Media Advisers, Inc., about this very issue.
So it’s a confirmation of sorts to see that CBS now has a policy on personal weblogs:
One new development is that all personal blogs written by CBS News employees must be approved by either Linda Mason, CBS News Senior Vice President, Standards and Special Projects, or Sean McManus, the President of CBS News. “We can’t have people having personal blogs venting their opinions,” Mason explained.
There’s no more detail than that available right now, but here is an age-old ethical conundrum for journalists: how do you balance the rights of personal free expression with the ethical ideal of objectivity?
I have yet to see a well-written blogging policy for a college news organization. If you have one, send me a copy. As soon as I find one, I’ll let you all know.
Regarding my post yesterday about campus media blogging policies, Kiyoshi Martinez at CampusByline shares one that the Daily Illini apparently adopted as an internal memo last semester.
These rules seem a bit draconian:
llini Media policy on personal blogs and Web sites:
* No Illini Media resources may be used in creating, updating or editing personal blogs or Web sites.
* Illini Media employees may not create, edit or update personal blogs or Web sites during the course of their work day, work shift or work assignment.
* Content of personal blogs or Web sites must not be based upon internal conversations, discussions and/or decisions.
* An employeeâ€™s affiliation with Illini Media or any of its units should not be the focus of his or her personal blog or Web site.
* Employees may not post material on personal blogs or Web sites intended for publication/broadcast or material that has been previously published/broadcast.
* Any employee violating this policy is subject to immediate termination of employment with the company.
(the DI rules were leaked at Peoria Pundit)
Martinez knows the policy first hand, as it stopped him from blogging while he worked there. And now that he’s graduated, he makes no qualms about the bad taste it left in his mouth:
My take on blogging policies like the DIâ€™s is that it forces your employees to take the names off of the things they write and go anonymous, which in turn is like unleashing a beast thatâ€™s never going to be muzzled. Iâ€™m not saying that â€œall newspapers must have blogsâ€ but itâ€™s unreasonable to think that you can shut people up. Plus, thereâ€™s the question of what is a blog, can you check your MySpace or Facebook account and leave messages, do you monitor your employeesâ€™ surfing habits?
As I’ve stated before, a blogging policy should be developed with the input of the staff. There is *nothing* that destroys trust in a newsroom more than someone shooting off at the blog about some sort of internal discussion for the entire world to read and look up via Google. But cutting staffers off from even *having* a personal weblog is going to the opposite extreme. Pay is poor at most campus media outlets. Acting like big brother regarding means of personal expression won’t make for a good work environment.
Martinez encourages student media to just make sure that students don’t break journalistic standards or write anything libelous. But staff relations are much more than libel.
At our advisers workshop in DC, an adviser mentioned an incident in which one candidate for EIC had written some very nasty things about another student staffer on a weblog, only to have that material surface prior to the EIC candidacy. Not only did this student not become EIC, but the student’s relationship with other staffers was no doubt irreparably damaged.
It’s a fine line, and one that needs much more thought and experimentation before we can say the college media profession has handled this issue well.
As for blogging policies, I’m still looking for some good examples. Sadly, I don’t think the DI policy is quite it.
Adding to the conversation about blogging policies, the Kansas City Star has made public their blogging guidelines for political reporters – “Credibility questions ease as readers embrace political blogs”
At The Star, we tried to make the bar settings clear â€“ but at somewhat different levels for print and online. A pinch of voice and a pound of edginess permeate our postings. But not opinion. Keith Chrostowski, deputy national editor who helped create our concept, set up these rules of engagement:
- Editing. We still do it, albeit on the fly.
- Tone. It must be light, not condescending or hurtful.
- Edginess. We apply it to all posts where appropriate, in an odd way being “fair” to all.
- Reality. Entries must be based on something “real” that we can verify.
- Response. Everybody gets a chance to respond, although sometimes in a later posting.
- Scorecard. The editor keeps a loose score of negative and positive, trying to keep it balanced over time.
I’m not sure exactly how you balance the “edginess” and “light tone” quotient, but whatever works. I’m sure numerous campus news operations will be experimenting with weblogs this year, so these are some useful tips to think about.
Link via Cyberjournalist
I’ll also throw in this reminder: You need to spell out the expectations regarding “inside baseball,” i.e., internal media gossip, chit-chat and behind-the-scenes tales. Nothing is going to destroy trust in a news staff more than having someone post a nasty weblog entry about a staff meeting for all the World Wide Web to see.
I have yet to come across a fully-developed weblogging policy for campus media, although I know several people have been working on one. If you have one at your operation, would you consider sharing with the community?
I’ve talked before about how refreshing it would be to assign a reporter on a student media staff to monitor the campus “blogosphere.” Here are some simple steps that would make that happen.
1. Identify a good candidate – keep an eye on the staff and pick a student who knows something about weblogs, who has some technical “savvy.” Maybe they navigate facebook or myspace well, or they seem to be instant messaging or text messaging a lot in between stories.
2. Set some parameters – Define the beat. Are you going to monitor only student weblogs? Or professor weblogs as well? What about alumni? Anonymous or only those who disclose their identity?
3. Set up an RSS reader – My suggestion would be to use Bloglines or a similar web-based news reader like Newsgator. This will allow the student to follow their beat from anywhere. They don’t have to come to the newsroom to check the weblogs. They will need to sign up for a free account with the service. You might make this account accessible by anyone on staff, so other reporters or editors can add weblogs if needed.
4. Search for and identify likely weblog candidates – This will require some “cyber-shoeleather” on the part of the student. They will probably need to check Technorati and search for the name of the school to identify some affiliated weblogs. From there, they might want to check the links that appear on those weblogs to see if the blogger links to other campus-affiliated bloggers. At this point, they’d do well to also check Xanga and myspace to search using the school name as well. Xanga and myspace blogs don’t always show up in Technorati searches. Another place to look is Google’s Blogsearch.
5. Add weblogs to the RSS reader – Once you’ve located the weblogs you want to keep an eye on, add them to the RSS reader. This can be done through manual entry by looking for a link on the site that says “subscribe through RSS” or a little orange “RSS” or “Atom” logo. When you find this bit of linkage, copy the URL and paste it into the appropriate place in the news reader (every newsreader has a different formula for this, so I’m not going to try to explain each one. The best way to identify how the reader subscribes is to read the FAQ or Help section of the web site.)
For instance, Bloglines’ feed subscription field is accessed by clicking an “add” link on the feed page. From their web site:
Enter the URL of the blog you wish to subscribe to, and Bloglines will attempt to locate the appropriate feed. An easier way to subscribe to blogs and newsfeeds is to use the Easy Subscribe Button, which makes subscribing to a blog you’re viewing just one click away.
6. Check the weblogs frequently – Some webloggers update daily. Some more frequently. Some only occasionally. The beat reporter will hopefully get a sense of how often he/she needs to check these blogs for information after a couple of weeks.
7. Monitor and edit feeds – It’s almost certain that most of the weblogs that you find will have nothing of significant interest to your readership most of the time. A few, however, may post about topics that *would* interest your readers. You can organize the news feeds into folders, which will make sifting through information much easier (like folders marked “read daily,” “read weekly,” “read occasionally”).
8. Follow up and verify – This is crucial. Train your reporter to verify information found on weblogs. Encourage them to contact the bloggers in question, and – listen carefully – cite the weblog as a source if you got your original information from the weblog. This is just good community relations, and the ethical thing to do as well. But it’s almost a given that some of the information you find on the blogs will be slanted, or half-accurate. Just because you’re following the blog beat doesn’t mean you check your journalism sense at the door.
9. Write, Write, Write – Turn the blog beat into a regular feature. A regular story requirement will make the reporter put forth more effort, and result in a more satifying experience on the beat. Recognize when something of value comes from the beat, just as you would when the cops reporter shows up with a hot story. Oh, and don’t relegate this to a “web-only” feature. Put some of these stories into the newspaper as well. It might draw some of your print readers into the online audience as well.
10. Evaluate – Set a period of time to experiment with this beat. After a couple of months, or at the end of the semester, sit down with the reporter and editors and find out if the beat is worth continuing. If it’s not, pull the plug. It’s okay. Maybe your campus isn’t a hotbed of blogging information. Move on to the next brave experiment in new media.
11. Share your experience – If you follow these steps, let us know! Send me an e-mail: scmurley (at) gmail.com and tell us how it worked for you. You may be the campus that innovates for the nation.
UPDATE: The Daily Mississippian story: “Ole Miss Students Die in Wreck“:
The other day Bryan Murley posed a question. Is Facebook the competition? Last night (December 9,2005) three Ole Miss students were killed in an auto accident. I have some students working this story. Few comments from the cops. No official university comment. Told my students to visit Facebook where they found photos, details and other student comments about the accident. Not exactly stuff you can quote, but more information and sooner than anywhere else.
December 6, 2005 in management
You may be familiar with another name for these software titles: Social Networking systems. Xanga and MySpace allow users to create blogs, share photos, and find people of similar interests within the “community” of the system. Facebook doesn’t do blogs, but it links up people within a school campus/community.
I mention these as examples of “student media” use, because students are using these software titles to create their own narratives, to engage their fellow students in conversation, and to make themselves known.
And they are doing this outside the sphere of what we consider traditional student media.
Some in the college media profession might view Xanga, MySpace and Facebook as competitors. Facebook has started offering ad space for students to notify other people within the network about events. Can anyone say “classified advertising?” Does the name craigslist mean anything?
But I’m not so concerned about these social networks as competition. I’m curious to know if anyone else sees them as a potential tool for collaboration and community building between students and campus media?
- Has anyone thought about having a reporter whose beat is the Xanga/MySpace beat?
- Or has anyone tried to set up a space in Facebook for the campus newspaper staff?
- Has anyone thought about putting an ad on Facebook promoting a newspaper feature or special edition?
- Or promoting sales of the yearbook?
I ask these questions because this is the kind of thinking we are going to need if we really are going to “reinvent college media” for the future. We are past the age when we can view these types of developments as “threats” or “competition.” The students who join these networks don’t see them as competition for the campus media. These students may not even interact with campus media on a regular basis.
Our goal should be to see how best to use new developments in new media to build interaction with campus media, to encourage student journalists to think of new ways to reach their communities. Will such efforts work? Who knows. But we will never know if someone doesn’t try.
One of my favorite hockey quotes is from Wayne Gretzky, who said “You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.” How many shots are you taking at using these systems to your benefit?
Got something to say: E-mail the author at scmurley -at- gmail.com, or put something in the comments. Let us know if you have any experiments in these areas.