Inside LINK: How we handle our personal social media accounts

Lacy Starling
Lacy Starling
Lacy is the president and CEO of LINK nky. Email her at [email protected]

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Inside LINK is a weekly column from our CEO, Lacy Starling. If you have questions you’d like Lacy to answer, email her at [email protected].

Social media has always been tricky for journalists. (Frankly, social media is tricky for everyone.)

Unless you choose to have two accounts, which is a lot of work to keep up with, your personal Twitter, Facebook, TikTok and Instagram accounts are often where your readers find and follow you.

In the digital age, social media is also where we can share our stories and gain a wider audience. And social media is a great way to get leads – people send us messages with information all the time.

However, platforms like Twitter and Facebook also make it easy to get into trouble. Boosting posts by partisans destroys the veneer of impartiality. (And don’t give me that “retweets are not endorsements” stuff – if you don’t endorse it, don’t use your platform to boost it.) And the anonymity of social media allows people to descend into vicious reply-battles, which further erodes civic discourse.

Some folks choose to stay away from the socials altogether. I didn’t use Twitter for years, until I took this position. And many days, I wish I’d stayed off the bird app. But for those of us at LINK who do use social media, we needed to get really clear on what was acceptable, and what wasn’t.

As a team, we created an internal social media policy. And rather than try to summarize it, I’m just going to put it here, in its entirety, so you can see the standards to which we hold ourselves when we’re online.

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Once you’ve read it, I’d love to hear your feedback, and how it makes you feel about our reporters and how they are using their social media accounts.

LINK nky Internal Social Media Policy

At LINK nky, we recognize that our staff have their own social media accounts, and that on those accounts, we are allowed freedom of expression as protected by the First Amendment. However, we also recognize that our tweets, reels, posts, comments, likes, and shares reflect on the organization, and that what we do on social media affects how the community views both us and LINK.

When each of us joined LINK, we agreed to uphold the Mission and Guiding Principles of the organization, and that affects our behavior on social media. Our Guiding Principles of being Inclusive, Solutions-Focused, and Independent, in particular, are helpful guidelines as we think about what’s acceptable behavior on social media and what isn’t, for our staff. 

To that end, we have developed the following set of guidelines for all the folks associated with LINK – our full-time staff and our contributors. We worked on these guidelines as a team, and have agreed to abide by them as long as we are associated with LINK nky. 

  • We are Inclusive, which means that we are not anti-anything. The list of anti- content is long, and trying to line-item every possible instance would inevitably leave out something important, so we’ll just say it this way – we will not post, like or share content that excludes any group in our community. As an organization, we condemn threats of violence for any reason, as well as racism, anti-semitism, and anti-LGBTQ+ sentiments. But we also won’t tolerate bashing any group online, because that behavior is not in keeping with our Guiding Principles. 
  • We are Independent, which means we do not share political opinions or endorsements in our own posts, or in posts we like and share. We are human beings, which means that of course, we have opinions. However, in our work, those opinions simply don’t matter. It is not our job to tell the public what we think, or what our opinions are. It is our job to objectively report the facts and let y’all make up your own minds. 
  • We are Solutions-Focused, which means we do not engage in negative back-and-forth. Nothing good ever came of a Twitter or Facebook comments fight, so we don’t have those. We will respond if someone has a question, and we’ll absolutely make corrections if someone points out a mistake in our work, but we will not engage in negative feedback loops on social media. Our phone number and our emails are all public information, so if you truly want to have a conversation with one of our staff, you can do that through those channels. 
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That’s it. Keep it civil, keep it focused on the work, and understand that the momentary dopamine rush of “owning” someone online isn’t worth undermining the hard work and dedication of our entire team.

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