The Northern Star cannot dictate how its employees use social media websites on their personal time. You have a First Amendment right to free expression. However, as an employee of a news media organization, you have some unique challenges. Like it or not, you represent the Northern Star at all times. Please take that responsibility seriously and keep these guidelines in mind when using social media tools. If you have any doubts about the appropriateness of content, please ask your editor or adviser. Irresponsible personal activity that has potential negative consequences for the Northern Star could result in disciplinary action.
- Do not engage in any activity on the Internet that would put your credibility as a member of the Northern Star at risk.
- Remember that many people have access to your information, so keep it professional. Just as journalists often turn to social media sites to gather information about people, others may be searching for you.
- Do not express your support for political or other “polarizing issues.” This includes joining online groups in support of a cause or signifying a political affiliation in an Internet profile. This is suggested for all Star employees, but especially strongly suggested for newsroom employees.
- Do not include content that implies illegal activity, such as posts, photos or communications made by others to your page.
- Do not publish anything unprofessional about your work at the Star. This includes comments about sources as well as co-workers. Ranting about a difficult source, co-worker or tough story may be tempting, but it reflects negatively on the Star. And, once you publish it, you’re liable for the content.
- Use the highest level of privacy allowed to keep unwanted visitors out of your page. But remember, just because your information settings are “private” doesn’t mean your information cannot be disseminated in other ways. Some examples: photos published of you may be visible if the person who published them doesn’t have strong privacy controls, or groups that you are a member of may show you as a member on their home page. Other users also may forward your comments or posts to a more-public arena.
- Do not behave online any differently than you would in another public forum. Think the MLK commons or on a street corner downtown. Present yourself in a way that you can defend.
- If you have any hesitation about the content you’re about to publish, wait. Identify what issues may arise and decide if it would be responsible to post.
These guidelines not only protect the Star, but yourself as an individual. As you move toward graduation, more scrutiny will be applied to how you present yourself on the Internet, so conduct yourself in a way that you can defend.
Public Use (Working as a direct representative of the Northern Star)
Many members of the news staff have access to the Northern Star’s website and its Facebook and Twitter accounts. It is necessary to use these tools with the same integrity and responsibility as what would be published in our print product. Please abide by these guidelines when publishing as the Northern Star on any of these outlets.
- Material published online must be subject to the same scrutiny as information for the print product. Always verify facts.
- Do not publish anything without having it checked by another employee or adviser in the newsroom to avoid spelling, grammatical, punctuation and factual errors.
- As breaking news occurs, contact the multimedia manager to coordinate updates on all web platforms to avoid duplicate posts.
- On Twitter and Facebook, do not post regular stories more than once every half hour to avoid flooding followers’ home pages (in breaking news situations this rule does not apply).
- Be selective when responding to comments, like if a question is asked or if something needs to be verified. Don’t feel the need to respond to all comments.
- Employees are free to encourage user interaction on the Northern Star’s Facebook and Twitter pages. For example, you can post an open-ended question like “How are you cleaning up after last night’s storm?” to followers. Please inform the multimedia manager and frequently monitor activity.
- Employees may also use these accounts to gather information. For example, a reporter looking for input or feedback on a policy change may post an open-ended question for followers and then follow-up with a private message to the user, requesting an interview. Again, please inform the multimedia manager and frequently monitor activity.
- Remember to maintain the same responsibility on the Northern Star’s website and Facebook and Twitter profiles as would be expected in the print product. Our web presence is an extension of that publication. If in doubt about any online activity, ask the multimedia manager.
Use in the Office
Employees have access to social media outlets on all Northern Star computers. This privilege does not excuse excessive use of distracting websites. Employees should use time in the newsroom to work on assignments, brainstorm story ideas or contribute to the overall product in some way.
Employees who are paid hourly or by salary are subject to disciplinary action if their personal Internet use is found to be interrupting their responsibilities. Editors always have work that could be done, and their salaries reflect a high level of expectations. Hourly workers, when on the clock, need to be contributing to the company in some way. If there is downtime between editing stories, etc., supplemental work will be assigned.
Employees who consistently disregard these expectations may be disciplined or terminated based on their supervisors’ discretion.