I am taking a Journalism class this semester, and I’ve got the Associate Press Stylebook, where I find a section talks about social media guidelines. I think it should be useful if anyone ever needs to write some news stories based on social media sources.
The general rule of vetting sources should be the same as any other ways. But there are other challenges because it is a lot times hard to verify the identity of the sources on social media sites.
Most social networking sites offer a way to send messages to users, so we can get direct contact with the user who provide the source through email or phone, to get more detailed information about the the source. Never just quote somebody or share a photo or video based on where we first see them. Always find the original sources. If a source comes from a company, organization or goverment agency, always confirm identity by calling the place. If the source provides central factual information to the news story, we should find additional sources as confirmation.
If we want to use photos, videos and other media sources, we need to verify the authentication. In addition, we need to determine who owns the copyright and get permission from that person or organization.
We should be very careful when we find that the social networking page belongs to somebody who is essential to the news story, especially when we haven’t confirmed with the person. Make sure the page is not a fraud by somebody else.
Finally, there is one thing social media should not be used. I quote “social networks should never be used as a reporting shortcut when another method, like picking up a phone or knocking on a door, would yield more reliable or comprehensive information.
Source: Associate Press Stylebook, P. 312