I will have a story today in the Crikey email edition about some Twitterers who are pioneering court reporting by Tweet. Another story will critique Rupert Murdoch’s labelling Google, Yahoo and the like as kleptomaniacs.

This at a time when, as reported on this blog previously and in The Australian today mainstream media organisatons are grappling with how to regulate staff reporters’ use of social networking tools.

People will have different views, but I have some clear advice to journalists. Do not allow your employer to prevent you from having access to Twitter, Facebook and the like. Be very cautious indeed about signing anything that restricts your ability to network online.

It is reasonable for employers to expect you to restrain yourself, just as you would in any other public forum. The laws of defamation, contempt and privacy still apply.

But any journalist who fails to get to grips with social networking tools, or who allows their own online personality to be subsumed in corporate blandness and bla, will risk irrelevance and invisibility in the future. We all know, as journalists, that our reputations are the foundations for our career. Our reputations belong to us, not our employers.

In the future one of the main ways in which we will build those reputations is through interaction with audiences via social networking. Tools like Facebook and Twitter are fast becoming vital means by which people decide which media content to access and to trust.

Therefore a reporter that signs across their internet presence entirely to their employer is conflating individual reputation with the reputation of the mainstream media organisation that is employing them. If content disappears behind pay walls, then how will a journalist without an online social network ever become known, other than to the small private club that chooses to subscribe to the employer’s content?

Given that mainstream media is employing fewer and fewer journalists, and the job growth is likely to be in smaller, intensely networked publications, I would call that a foolish move

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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