Should journalists quote from your Twitter, Facebook posts without permission?

Popular local food blogger Christina Orso recently asked a question on Twitter that fired up a lot of discussion.

And yes, as a courtesy, I asked her for her permission before I reprinted her Tweet here but the question remains: Should I have?

It’s kind of hard to expect privacy when you publicly post something on a social medium where sharing is a rule, not an exception.

On the other hand, even I would find it a bit jarring to see one of my tweets quoted on a newscast or a blog or in another newspaper without any warning. At the least, I’d expect a tweet back letting me know or asking me to expand on my point beyond 140 characters. That seems easy and fair. That’s why our policy is to essentially stick to the Golden Rule: “Do unto others …”

But it’s not always that simple.

Should journalists alert public figures, such as celebrities or the local mayor, that they’re going to use their public tweet? I don’t think so. We’d be lucky to even hear back in the case of a celebrity, who really should know better at this point. Should a journalist contact the mayor’s office seeking out more info about a newsworthy or controversial tweet? Probably. Do we need permission to publish the post? No.

What about breaking news?

It’s not always easy to tell you I’m using your tweet in a breaking news situation. I am a huge fan of Storify, a program that allows anyone to use public Tweets and Facebook  posts to help tell a story. It’s especially useful for journalists covering breaking news, such as the time a man in an SUV blocked the Ravenel Bridge for a couple of hours.

Storify allows you to notify someone you used their post after you publish but not beforehand, but it also links back to the original tweet in its original context. It’s basically an extension of Twitter. That’s why I think it’s fair. I’ve used Storify several times and have not had anyone ask me to take their post down (also deleting the post will make it disappear from the Storify story).

Facebook

We often want to know what you’re thinking so we ask you on Facebook. Should someone who posts a comment on a newspaper’s Facebook page expect to be asked permission to use their comment in the newspaper? What do you think?

Photos

A lot of people’s livelihoods depend on making money from the photos they take, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that a judge recently ruled against two newspapers who used a professional photographer’s photos even though he published them on Twitter.

The judge basically said posting a picture on Twitter does not give another publication license to use and profit from someone else’s photo. If you take an up-close shot of breaking news and post it on Twitter – even if it’s from your clamshell cell phone and not a camera – you’ll get a tweet from me asking for permission to use it on our site. (Note: If you have a good shot let me know!)

Are there newsworthy photos that fall in the gray area? Absolutely. Social media is relatively young and growing so quickly that there will always be questions about what’s right and what’s wrong, and I’m not an attorney. That’s why we just try to do what’s best and keep the conversation going.

What do you think?

3 thoughts on “Should journalists quote from your Twitter, Facebook posts without permission?

  1. Of course I realized that my tweets are public and anything I say is up for grabs. That said, a heads up that something I’ve said will be used in an article would be nice! : ) Great article. Thanks for asking permission to use my tweet. Haha.

    • Thanks again, Christina. I think it was a very good question because: just because we can doesn’t always mean we should. And it’s been interesting to see the different reactions people have. There’s a lot of gray area.

  2. If you post something on twitter, facebook, google+ or any other open social media form then yes anybody can quote it because “YOU” put it out there to begin with.

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