Big news organisations who first embraced social media use at workplace are now seeing more risks than benefits in employees’ use of Facebook and Twitter, reveals an interesting study.
Realising the risks of social media, major news organisations have created guidelines for employees on how to use these outlets, separate from the companies’ existing codes of conduct.
Jayeon Lee, assistant professor of journalism at Pennsylvania-based Lehigh University, found that news organisations are more concerned about the current social media environment than excited about it at least when it comes to their employees.
“I was wondering what approaches news organisations take when it comes to their own employees’ social media uses,” Lee said.
“In particular, knowing both positive and negative implications of journalists’ social media uses, I wanted to see if their guidelines were dominantly positive, negative, or neutral in their framing of the implications,” she added.
Overall, Lee found that the guidelines focus primarily on the risks and challenges presented by the use of social media rather than the opportunities and advantages for media.
“As some media critics point out, overreaching rules can stifle creativity and morale and even discourage overall social media use itself,” she explained in a paper set to be published in the journal The Communication Review.
The study looked at eight US news organisations – The New York Times, The Associated Press, Bloomberg, Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, CNN, and NPR – and three British news outlets – BBC, The Times and The Daily Telegraph.
According to the findings, news organisations are most concerned about: accuracy, breaking objectivity, inappropriate online behaviours and harming their principles and credibility.
Accuracy – sourcing or redistributing false information from social media without sufficient fact verification – was the most frequently raised topic and accounted for 17.8 percent of the total sentences studied.
“The results show that the prevention-focused approach is more common than I would have predicted,” Lee said.
“Although I expected that the guidelines would include various warnings related to risky social media activities, I was surprised to find little comment about how to use social media wisely or effectively to derive full benefit from it,” she commented.
Lee recognised that news organizations are actively utilizing various social media to reach a wider audience and build brand loyalty.
“However, it seems they are keen on keeping their own employees from actively engaging in social media,” she added.