If follows, then, that bloggers will benefit from the AP Stylebook that covers in great detail in over 500 pages what makes for good journalism. The 2014 edition just arrived on my desk. Note that AP has changed its guidelines to allow use of over as well as more than to indicate greater numerical value.
Don’t Steal From Social Media
I was particularly interested in reading its advice regarding social media. This sentence stood out for me in the introduction to Social Media Guidelines: “If we as journalists can’t comfortably navigate the most popular areas of the Internet (note the capital I), why should our audience trust us with news at all?”
Credibility is a theme that is touched on throughout this chapter. AP states its social policies are built atop the foundation of its News Values and Principles.
If you’re a blogger, have you repurposed information on social networks without checking if it’s accurate? AP states, “…you should never simply lift quotes, photos or video from social networking sites and attribute them to the name on the profile…”
AP advises that you contact the original source – whether it’s an official from a company, organization or government agency — to confirm identity and then pursue at least one additional source for confirmation that the information provided is accurate.
As AP points out, and as we all know, phony sites are rampant on social media.
To Retweet Or Not to Retweet
Now that we all know we should check the sources for the content we lift from social networks (that was written somewhat with tongue in cheek), should we just blindly retweet and repost content to our social networks?
How do we know the information is accurate? Twitter, in particular, has become the conduit of breaking news and misinformation that spreads with the speed of light.
Hurricane Sandy was a glaring example of social misinformation such as the rumor that the New York Stock Exchange was under three feet of water (not true) and that Mayor Bloomberg planned on barring passenger cars from entering Manhattan (wrong).
I often use Buffer when I find a story that I’d like to share with my social networks. With the click of a button, off it goes. But am I sure the information is correct? I only post from reliable sites but who knows where they got the information?
Go to the Source
As AP states, “Social networks should never be used as a reporting shortcut when another method, like picking up a phone or knocking on a door, would yield more reliable or comprehensive information.”
On the other hand, I’ve found that Twitter accounts of phone companies and utilities to be reliable sources of information about power outages and how to save on your electricity bill. A community newspaper in Brooklyn alerted Con Edison, the New York utility, that there was a “stray voltage warning” and the utility replied they were sending a crew.
I feel that if I retweeted that to my followers (some of who might live in Brooklyn) it would be legitimate and I’d be providing a real service.
Do you check the original source before you retweet information or post something to one of your other social media networks?
AP nicely summarizes what’s new in the 2014 edition. Here are just a few examples:
- Religion. A new chapter brings together 208 entries, some of them new, with extensive revisions to others.
- State names. Under the new guidelines, the names of all 50 U.S. states should be spelled out when used in the body of a story.
- Food guidelines. There are a dozen new entries including aioli, Buffalo wings, caipirinha (what’s that!), demi-glace, kamut (huh?), mixologist, vegan and vegetarian.
- Medical terms. New terms include death/die (AP is just getting around to that?), first aid, HPV, in vitro fertilization, Lyme disease, MERS and WHO.
- Weather. The new entries include derecho (I just looked this up on Wikipedia and it means a widespread, long-lived, straight-line wind storm that can cause tornados, heavy rains, flash floods, and strong wind), monsoon, polar vortex and storm surge.
I’ll end this post with another new entry: “Auld Lang Syne” or farewell for now.