Don’t get burned by tweets, Facebook

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Okay, so you had a few beers last night after writing a story. Maybe a few too many. Afterward, you stumble back to the dorm, sit at the computer and start posting a note on Facebook, outlining your F*!$’d up night. Your status is even “I’m wasted.”

Or, you are angry with a grade in a class from a professor you thought was terribly unfair. Grading for grammar and checking sources? Bull*&#@!

Perhaps, you’re at a party where you see a football or volleyball player who’s hitting on a friend of yours, something that angers you so much you Tweet about it.

Social media can be a cool tool, offering opportunities to connect with friends and family across the country. Facebook can allow you to learn more about potential sources as well. And Twitter has the potential to offer live updates from breaking events and insights from athletes and coaches.

But these social media also have the potential to destroy your career. Unedited thoughts + social media = major problems.

ESPN now employs guidelines and  restrictions for its employees that include

* If ESPN.com opts not to post sports related social media content created by ESPN talent, you are not permitted to report, speculate, discuss or give any opinions on sports related topics or personalities on your personal platforms

* The first and only priority is to serve ESPN sanctioned efforts, including sports news, information and content

On some levels, these restrictions may seem draconian. On the other hand, most seem appropriate. A news organization relies upon its reputation more than anything. “We want to make sure that everyone who’s updating a social-media profile is representing the ESPN brand,” said Patrick Stiegman, ESPN.com’s VP-executive editor/producer. “If someone tweets, they need to treat this like a live mic and demonstrate appropriate taste and discipline in those places.”

So be careful in your own college news rooms, places that are far from insulated. As a sports reporter you cannot act like a fan, berating players or lamenting coaching decisions. You can’t have it both ways. College news rooms should also start drafting polices for the use of social media, deciding what kinds of usage can destroy both the organization’s and the individual’s credibility.

Plus, do not put anything on Facebook you’d not want possible employers to see – because they will see it when they are researching which candidate to hire (or which ones to fire.)

Have fun with Facebook and do whatever you do with Twitter (I’m still not a fan.) But, please, do so responsibly.

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