Can a Journalist Friend or Follow a Source on Social Media?


Is it OK for a journalist to friend or follow a source? According to the Online News Association: Social Networks and Ethics Key Issues, it is perfectly fine as long as the journalist avoids perceptions of bias. In order for the journalist to avoid being bias, he or she should follow both parties on the specific issue at hand. As a journalist, it’s important to be fair at all cost. No doubt, it is easy to follow someone on Twitter and not have to follow them back. News organizations approve of the following method because it’s a one way action that doesn’t require approval. Sometimes friending an anonymous source who’s giving out information may reveal their identity. It’s important that journalist keeps things confidential and respects the sources privacy.

As stated in the Online News Association, “Some news orgs may decide that people shouldn’t friend colleagues working below them.” If that person is your friend outside of work, it’s easy to want to accept their friend request on social networks. The pressure may be difficult to decline the request. Having more seniority means that other colleagues will look up to that person. People want to be someone’s friend that has more knowledge and information in the field. In an American Journalism Review article, “To Friend or Not to Friend” says, “Reporters have not received much in the way of managerial guidance on this subject, and there tend to be no established guidelines.” However, many journalist still maneuver with caution due to a fear of running into a conflict of interest.

In some news organizations, being friends with one another on social media is a common thing. Social networking sites like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter are used for professional reasons and open friending may be commonly encouraged. It is safe to say that journalist can friend or follow a source on social networks but please proceed with caution.