Journalistic Integrity

Last Updated: March 31, 2016, 10:02 pm EST

By Finessa Bedoun

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Getty Images, Photo Alto/Sigrid Olsson

To what degree is a journalist required to identify himself when using a social network?

Journalists are almost always required to identify themselves using their real names and who they’re working for in the biographical area of whatever social networks they’re using. Seeing as how important it is for journalists to obtain accurate identification from their sources, it only seems fair that they provide the same accuracy when offering information about themselves.

By providing honest, accurate information about themselves, journalists give the impression that they can be trusted, which is something that is important to convey when trying to obtain information from a source, as is discussed in this NPR article.

As with in-person interactions, providing accurate and honest identifying information may help the journalist in getting an interview or in using certain content from a source’s social media, such as Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Anyone can contact a source and claim to be someone they’re not, so I think it adds to the credibility of the journalist to offer their real name and organization they’re working for. If anything, sources might be more forthcoming with their information if they know they’re dealing with an actual journalist.

On the other hand, however, I do support the idea of journalists being able to go undercover or in using pseudonyms when they absolutely have to and when they have no other choice.  If a journalist is in a situation where they’d rather not be identified as a journalist and are obtaining information while they’re undercover, they should be able to use a pseudonym if it means protecting their own safety.

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