How should journalists navigate the the complex world of reporting online and off?

Reuter's recently released Handbook of Journalism offers clues to confused reporters.

This salient paragraph calls into question the defenses offered by  local journalists about their personal engagement with the Olympics.  (More on that later.)

Reuters Handbook of Journalism states:

"Avoid raising questions about your freedom from bias

Your Facebook profile, Twitter stream or personal blog give clues to your political and other affiliations and you should take care about what you reveal. A determined critic can soon build up a picture of your preferences by analyzing your links, those that you follow, your 'friends', blogroll and endless other indicators. We all leave an 'online footprint' whenever we use the Web and you need to think about whether your footprint might create perceptions of a bias toward or against a particular group.

  • Think about the groups that you join – it may be safest not to join a group or to follow participants on just one side of a debate
  • Think about using 'badges' expressing solidarity with some cause
  • Think about whether it would be best to leave your political affiliation out of your Facebook profile
  • Think about whether you link only or mainly to voices on one side of a debate
  • Think about making use of the privacy settings on social networks and basic ways in which you can conceal your use of the Web like clearing your cache regularly"

 

Interesting to test this against what we saw during the Vancouver 2010 Games media coverage.  In her column in thevarsity.ca, Nicole Leung today critiques the Canadian news media's handling of the Olympics. Leung refers to a debate on CBC's The Current during the Olympics that she says featured Gary Mason (The Globe and Mail), Tom Harrington (CBC), and Frances Bula (freelance journalist). Leung writes:

"The Olympic torch relay, the longest in history to be contained within Canada, sparked controversy over the media’s approach to covering the event. Many journalists from the mainstream media participated in the torch relay.

In a critique on j-source.ca, Stephan J. A. Ward, Professor of Journalism Ethics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, refused to call the torch relay “Canadian journalism’s shining moment,” and claimed that reporters running in the relay compromised journalism ethics, as the action violates the general principle of independence. David Eby, executive director of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, echoed Ward’s opinions, and argued that journalists have sacrificed independence in journalism, and served up for the IOC as “mascots for the Olympics.”

The debate was brought on CBC Radio’s The Current. A panel featuring Gary Mason (The Globe and Mail), Tom Harrington (CBC), and Frances Bula (freelance journalist) responded to Eby’s comments. While Mason called (BCCLA executive director) David Eby’s concerns 'ridiculous,' Harrington denied that CBC has relieved its responsibilities for journalism when covering the Games.