At an American Health Care Journalist’s seminar on using Facebook for reporting, the subject of posting personal information when one’s Facebook friends includes professional contacts came up.
“I hate seeing personal stuff on journalists’ Facebook pages,” one colleague confided to me after the meeting. “As journalists we’re not supposed to be revealing personal information. So when I see baby photos or status updates that have to do with vacations, I just cringe.”
Indeed, for journalists, blurring that line can be especially uncomfortable. Traditionally, reporters aren’t supposed to reveal their personal opinions in public — most traditional newspaper reporters, in fact, won’t put bumper stickers on their cars, join advocacy organizations, or write letters to editors. There even has been some debate about whether or not journalists should vote.
Journalists can choose to keep their Facebook pages totally private, of course. But what if the journalist writes a book and wants to cultivate an audience on Facebook? Or what if the journalist is friends with other journalists and they want to link up (as opposed to LinkUp) on Facebook? Suddenly the worlds of private and professional collide and it can get awkard.
It gets so awkard, in fact, that the New York Times actually wrote a policy how reporters should use Facebook. That policy includes recommendations that reporters not fill out the “political views” section of their profile and that they never write anything on their pages that they wouldn’t want to have appear in the Times itself.
Certainly other professionals might also want to be careful about how much personal information they post — whether it’s to avoid public scrutiny (think of a political figure) or maintain an image of impartiality. Conversely, some people might want to be careful about how much professional information they post, to avoid both boring their personal friends and leaking company secrets.
Next Up: How some professionals walk the line on Facebook.