Posted by: mobrienweiss | January 25, 2013

NYT’s public editor on journalists & personal opinion


  1. When it comes to journalists and personal opinions, the lines can be very murky, as Margaret Sullivan explains in the clip, especially with reporters’ presence on social media platforms now.

    I think the question we (or each individual news organization) need to answer in order to define where they stand on this issue is what the purpose of social media is for reporters? Each news organization has a professional twitter, Facebook etc. that encompasses the entire newspaper. So, is a reporters personal twitter or Facebook a representation of themselves, the news organization, or a blend?

    The clip here brings up a good point that these social media platforms are a way for reporters and editors to expose who they are to the public, build a brand and a following and connect and bring in more readers. Readers want to know about the person who writes what they read everyday, so taking that into account, I believe that personal opinion should absolutely be expressed by reporters on their personal social media websites.

    However, in actual reporting articles, I believe that they should be completely impartial. That is what the editorial page is for – to give opinions on issues. If the issues aren’t impartially balanced and spelled out for a reader, how are they to decide what their stance is on an issue?

    Personally, I strive to write news articles completely devoid of bias so readers can formulate their own opinions. If they want to know what I think about the story they can check out my twitter. It’s as simple as a plug in the byline of the story to the reporters twitter handle. Problem solved.

    Another issue with leaning a certain way in articles and putting more focus on one side of a debate is that your news organization gets a reputation for leaning to one side of the political spectrum. This, in turn, alienates readers and narrows your readership base. A right-wing Republican is going to be skeptical and wary before purchasing a Boston Globe. In a time where newspapers need readers more than ever, the last thing they should be doing in alienating readers. Not to mention that balancing a story is just good journalism.

  2. As someone who’s interested in pursuing a career in journalism, I personally think being objective is very important. But as Sullivan brought up during the interview, when it comes to social media, it is also important to establish oneself and gain a presence online. I guess in a way, it goes back to thinking before doing – or in this case posting. I have had plenty ideas about what I’d like to share online – whether it be on Twitter, Facebook, or a blog, but after thinking about how my views may be interpreted, I decide whether sharing them is a good idea in the long run. I agree that journalists should be able to share their opinions online, as long as they don’t write anything too extreme.

  3. There’s a time and a place to leave opinions, and focusing on opinions and lack of consideration are not a place for news reporting. Lack of attention to details, fact and negligence are petty and don’t belong on a page where people want to know the facts, learn something and gain insight on a matter. Focusing on one aspect is unprofessional in many cases, and to be a journalist you need to be able to see both sides of the picture, even if your personal opinions think one idea is total bulls**t. I agree with Margaret Sullivan’s stand. Outstanding opinions are for personal facebook and twitter pages, not for a professional sight where your words in some ways are responsible for representing the image of the company that a journalist is employed by.

    • Alex, I think you made some great points here that I myself were going to say. I agree with everything you touched upon. A journalist needs to put their personal opinions aside and look at what they are focusing on from all sides not just their stance or someone else stance. I don’t think they should go as far as playing Devil’s Advocate because that could be portrayed as picking a side but they need to present all the facts. If a reporter puts his/her personal opinion into a piece they are working on , it no longer is news but gossip or something else. One of the men in the clip stated that there is too much over sharing on Twitter and that is true for personal accounts. Twitter is founded on being a place to say whatever you want, but in using Twitter professionally you need to be objective, wholesome, and not pick a side.

  4. I believe that there is a time and a place to disclose private thoughts online. Although we all say things on Twitter and Facebook that reflect how we are personally feeling at the moment or out views on a certain issue – as professionals, social media sharing should be taken more seriously. As journalists, we are not supposed to take sides – effective articles are balanced so that readers can come to their own conclusions and formulate their own opinions about issues. We all have our own opinions but journalists can not disclose their opinions other than in an Op-Ed piece. Readers should be able to make their own decisions and we shouldn’t be persuading them in any way – our job is strictly to inform the reader. And by holding this position, journalists must always be aware (more than others) about what they are posting on Twitter and Facebook because once it is out there it can never really be deleted.

  5. This is one of the hardest obstacles journalists have to overcome- especially in dramatic or serious situations. There have been several instances where journalists have received criticism for intervening in a situation they are covering. For example in this video Anderson Cooper is in Haiti and “saves” a boy from looters His intervention was well received by social media and it seemed that overnight he turned more into a hero than a journalist. Conversely, famous photojournalist Kevin Carter’s iconic photo ( had readers/viewers asking why he, the photographer, didn’t intervene to help the child. Both situations are very similar and show the battle between the ethics of being a human and the ethics of being a professional journalist and honoring the codes and expectations for both.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: