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The Collegian News Blog

Journalism Ethics 101

Monday, March 31, 2008

The Daily Collegian isn't alone in drawing criticism for using information posted on Facebook.com while reporting on the death of University of Massachusetts junior Katherine Sherman.

AmherstWire editor Eric Athas took a bit of heat after writing several blog posts for Masslive.com covering Sherman's passing and using quotes taken directly from the internet:

"can i honestly ask, what the hell is wrong with you taking quotes from a facebook page full of grieving friends and tacking it up as a eye-catching headline? one of the girls whose quotes you swiped is sitting right next to me and personally feels pretty violated that you would be sneaking s*** off of facebook no less in order to composite some sort of bulls*** blurb that doesnt even begin to describe the magnitude of beauty and brilliance that was katie sherman, and im sorry, but if you see that the group says in large letters PLEASE DO NOT SPEAK TO MEDIA TO RESPECT THE SHERMAN FAMILY, why the hell would you continue to exploit this girl's story in the interest of some journalistic accolades? if you knew katie you would know this is the last thing she would have wanted, so kindly remove this tacky-ass write up and leave the eulogies to her friends and family, thanks."

"As a parent reading this article, I strongly agree withe the comments posted above that you went far just reporting the "news" and in fact, shared private information to enhance your story. If you were to maintain true journalistice integrity, you would NOT have utlized these tactics and shared very personal quotes that have no right to be published in the media.

You should have placed yourself in their situation to get perspective before you chose to write such a story and use private and personal comments. I would then hope you would have used better judgement and not shared these statements.

You, personallly and UMass Live 101 should be very ashamed and owe famiy and friends a sincere apology"

Ellyn Angelotti of Poynter.org cuts to the core of the issue when she writes:

"Online network users need to understand that, unless they set their preferences otherwise, their profile will be broadcasted publicly. But many users don't. By default, user profiles on Facebook and MySpace are public. Both online networks have privacy settings that users may or may not be aware of. I can choose who sees my personal information, (only my friends, my network, everyone in the world) but most people don't take the time to do so. Nor do they understand the consequences of sharing too much information. Users can also deactivate their account if they don't want anyone to find it.

Even when you do find a user who has juicy information on their profile page, consider the harm in posting this information. It someone's public space, yet it can still be personal and sensitive."

Read the full article here and for Bob Steele's Guidelines Principles for Ethical Decisions click here.
posted by Derrick Perkins, 9:40 PM

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