Social networking sites, such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter have become an integral part of everyday life for millions of people around the world. As DBA grows to serve the audience well beyond the member business, social media is becoming an increasingly important aspect of our interaction and our transparency with our members and with a variety of communities. Properly used, social networking sites can also be very valuable newsgathering and reporting tools and can speed research and extend a reporter’s contacts, and we encourage our journalists to take advantage of them.

The line between private and public activity has been blurred by these tools, which is why we are providing guidance now. Information from your Facebook page, your blog entries, and your tweets – even if you intend them to be personal messages to your friends or family – can be easily circulated beyond your intended audience. This content, therefore, represents you and DBA to the outside world as much as a radio story or story for DBA does. As in all of your comments, the DBA Code of Ethics should guide you in your use of social media. You should read and be sure you understand the Code.

What follows are some basic but important guidelines to help you as you deal with the DBA business community, and to provide additional guidance on specific issues. These guidelines apply to every member of the Diamond Business Association and its members.

First and foremost – you should do nothing that could undermine your credibility with the public, damage DBA’s standing as an impartial source of business information, support, or otherwise jeopardize DBA’s reputation.

  • Recognize that everything you write or receive on a social media site is public. Anyone with access to the web can get access to your activity on social media sites. And regardless of how careful you are in trying to keep them separate, in your online activity, your professional life and your personal life overlap.
  • Use the highest level of privacy tools available to control access to your personal activity when appropriate, but don’t let that make you complacent. It’s just not that hard for someone to hack those tools and make public what you thought was private.
  • You should conduct yourself in social media forums with an eye to how your behavior or comments might appear if we were called upon to defend them as a news organization. In other words, don’t behave any differently online than you would in any other public setting.
  • While we strongly encourage linking to DBA’s website you may not repost DBA copyrighted material to social networks without prior permission. For example, it is o.k. to link from your blog or Facebook profile to a story of yours on the DBA site or newsletter, but you should not copy the full text or audio onto a personal site or Web page. You may accomplish this through the DBA API or widgets that DBA may provide to the public under the same terms of use as apply to anyone else.
  • Remember that the terms of service of a social media site apply to what you post and gather on that site. The terms might allow for material that you post to be used in a different way than you intended. Additionally, law enforcement officials may be able to obtain by subpoena anything you post or gather on a site without your consent — or perhaps even your knowledge.
  • Remember the same ethics rules as apply offline also apply to information gathered online.
  • Journalism should be conducted in the open, regardless of the platform. Just as you would do if you were working offline, you should identify yourself as a DBA business member at large when you are working online. If you are acting as a DBA board member, you must not use a pseudonym or misrepresent who you are. If you are acting in a personal capacity, you may use a screen name if that is allowed by the relevant forum.
  • You should always explain to anyone who provides you information online how you intend to use the information you are gathering.
  • When possible, clarify and confirm any information you collect online by later interviewing your online sources by phone or in person.
  • While widely disseminated and reported, material gathered online can be just as inaccurate or untrustworthy as some material collected or received in more traditional ways. As always, consider and verify the source.
  • Content gathered online is subject to the same attribution rules as other content.
  • You must not advocate for political or other polarizing issues online. This extends to joining online groups or using social media in any form (including your Facebook page or a personal blog) to express personal views on a political or other controversial issue that you could not write for the air or post on DBA site.
  • Your simple participation in some online groups could be seen to indicate that you endorse their views. Consider whether you can accomplish your purposes by just observing a group’s activity, rather than becoming a member. If you do join, be clear that you’ve done so to seek information or story ideas. And if you “friend” or join a group representing one side of an issue, do so for a group representing the competing viewpoint, when reasonable to do so.
  • Realize that social media communities have their own culture, etiquette, and norms, and be respectful of them.
  • If you are writing about meetings and gatherings at DBA – always ask first if the forum is on or off the record before distributing information or content about it.

And a final caution – when in doubt, consult with the board.

Social media is a very dynamic ecosystem, so don’t be surprised if we continue to revise or elaborate on our guidelines at a later date. In the meantime, we welcome your feedback.

Diamond Business Association 10-15-2011