I am fortunate to live in a country that counts free speech as one of its most fundamental principles. The journalism profession itself was created as a result of the First Amendment.
As a former journalist and current public relations professional, I understand the importance of timely, factual communication. I respect other people's beliefs and wholeheartedly agree that we are all entitled to our own opinions. It is when those opinions get in the way of factual reporting that I take issue. I was taught that public opinion should be decided by the viewers, not the reporter.
With the rapid expansion of social media, this age-old concept is becoming more and more murky. Is there any way to present the facts without making audiences endure opinion along the way?
Several prominent media outlets have done their best to reel reporters in when it come to social media. For example, The New York Times has an editor to review its Jerusalem bureau chief's social media posts. CNN fired its Middle East analyst after one controversial tweet. Reporters for the UK's Sky News are banned from retweeting anything from outside of the company network. All varying degrees of censorship, all resulting from one wrong move by a reporter who let their emotions get the best of them. Opinions on these restrictions have ranged from quiet support to outrage.
In my opinion, all of the restrictions above will be unsuccessful. Why? Because if there is one thing reporters don't take very well, it is policy restricting creativity.
The way I see it, The Wall Street Journal has the best guidelines for its reporters: don't be stupid. It makes perfect sense. Once you enter the world of journalism, you become a public figure - regardless of whether you are on TV or not. You must throw your own opinions to the wayside and report the facts.
There would be no need for company social media policies if reporters began taking personal responsibility for their actions. If you wouldn't say it on air or write it in your article, don't put it on your social media page. Reporters owe it to the public to keep their personal views private.
Lisa Arledge Powell is the president of MediaSource, a multimedia production and media relations company that works with hospitals, healthcare organizations, and other brands.