Are Facebook posts story fodder for journalists lurking in groups? Especially private or closed groups?

As a member of these groups, do you have an expectation that what you say in the group stays in the group?

Given Facebook (and other platforms) are SOCIAL media, is there really such a thing as private?

Who has a right to share your Facebook posts?

Members of one group on Facebook found out recently that what they share in the group was great content for a journalist, who approached the group founder to reprint what members were saying about a topic.

From all accounts … shit hit the fan! Not happy Jan was the consensus because many of these members shared their stories thinking they were doing so in a safe space.

What is the protocol here?

Let’s look at the nature of Facebook and journalism … is any publicity, good publicity?

More and more journalists look to social media for ideas and story ideas. Every day there is a story somewhere in the media collating tweets, turning them into news (especially when it comes to celebs talking about the death of another celeb or feedback about a reality TV show).

As more journalists rely on social media to find stuff to write about, we must ask what is acceptable when it comes to using comments and posts that were not written or shared for use as a media story.

So … are your posts fair game for journalists? And do they have to tell each person they are quoting their posts is juicy clickbait?

It is a grey area.  After scouring the internet looking for info on the ethics of taking people’s post and using for news, I did not find much.  By its very nature, social media is social – we post what we ate for dinner, how little Johnny is doing at school. Rant about someone who has slighted us and to promote our businesses.  If in business, we want journalists to be interested in what we are doing and share our great stories.

Here is the fine line.

Media watch

In 2015, ABC’s Media Watch reported on when people’s private lives become public. A mother had posted a rant about her kid’s childcare and The Daily Mail shared the post internationally. Support poured in for this mother but she was not happy. The publications did not approach her about sharing her story or ask if it was ok. She told Media Watch

“I’m just incredibly stupefied and dumbfounded that this has blown out like this … The fact that it was just taken without my permission upsets me … This group has a whole bunch of women who get on there and openly discuss their parenting and relationships. It terrifies me that someone is trawling this and looking for clickbait.”

It was a private mother’s group.  She thought her post was safe to share in private group (albeit 12k members) until someone shared it.

Where does ethics come in when it comes to Facebook?

When I was a print journo, the journalism ethics were drummed into me. There are boundaries to what and how a journalist can report the news.

This one has stuck with me “Use fair, responsible and honest means to obtain material. Identify yourself and your employer before obtaining any interview for publication or broadcast. Never exploit a person’s vulnerability or ignorance of media practice.”

How does this relate when taking a post form FAcebook and running it as ‘news’?

Where does that leave us punters in this ever-evolving day and age of sharing our lives on the toilet wall of the 21stcentury?

The link to the ethics is current – so from a media perspective, I would think if a journalist is on a private Facebook group or wants to use your post in a media article, they must ask you (of course, courtesy never goes astray)and let you know they are a journalist.

Lifting Facebook posts is just lazy journalism. But that is modern journalism, especially as mass redundancies strip quality reporters from once illustrious  print media organisations. Now it is all about quick, easy news that people will click on.

Great for publicity … not so great for privacy

Facebook is a great place to connect and share … like all things misused, it leaves an icky taste on your mouth. The thing to remember is regardless of the privacy of a group, not everyone has the same ideas about ethics and courtesy.  If you post something, it can be shared.  So, if you do not want it replicated ANYWHERE, don’t share it.

If you are the admin of a Facebook group, maybe put into your guidelines some policies around resharing posts outside the private group and info for any journalists who are members. After all, it takes a long time to build a group of engaged members … and one decision to destroy it.

What do you think?