Thursday, August 24, 2006

New sites about student journalism

One of my favorite new bloggers is Ryan Sholin, who writes about his experiences as a journalism student. What I like most about Ryan is that he seems genuinely excited by this profession. And unlike so many people I meet in newsrooms, he seems interested in learning how to get better at his trade.
Take a look at this post or this or this funny little one to get a feel for his work.

Yesterday Ryan pointed me toward a site that may become another of my favorites -- campusbyline, a two-man operation that aims to highlight the best in college media. And as I took a look through it, I came across this post about the Princeton Review's rankings of college newspapers.
That post links to a related article in the University of Arizona's student newspaper, and suggests a link between the article's writer and a source quoted in the story. That raises an all-new ethics question for me: Should a journalist disclose that a source is a "friend" on a social-networking site? My gut instinct is to err on the side of transparency and say "yes." But I'll be curious to see what other folks say.

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  1. Thanks Paul - If I weren't passionate about it, I wouldn't write about it.

    I dunno about MySpace transparency. Some of the undergrads working on our school paper have hundreds of "friends."

    I think we have pretty general rules about not using friends or family as a source, but an acquaintance or classmate you add on a social networking site seems like fair game to me.

  2. Paul,

    Thanks for the plug. I'm not sure about the ethics of using facebook friends either. It's almost a contest to see how many friends you can get on facebook, and the more people you're connected to, the more you can find better sources. Still, it's rather shady and it's not that hard to find others who aren't your "friends."

  3. Hi guys,
    Thanks for your comments.
    Certainly having a "friend" on a social-networking site doesn't imply the same sort of intimate connection as does having a friend in the real world.
    But I agree with Kiyoshi -- the ethical move is to just avoid using online friends as sources.
    If, however,someone you know from a social-networking site runs for office or is arrested or buys a business or takes some other news-worthy action, and it falls to you to do the story, then you should disclose the connection.

  4. When one looks at it through the lens of a professional journalist, the "Friend" concept seems to have all sorts of extra connotations. Usually, it's just someone you rubbed elbows with. Friend collecting is all the rage these days.

    I would venture to say that we'll be seeing many more charges of bias in college papers stemming from seemingly innocuous "friend"-ing and joining of "groups" on Facebook and MySpace.