Is Twitter fair game for reporters?


In a world where it is normal to know what a complete stranger is doing at any given time, thanks to social media, where do we draw the line with reporters?

If Hilary Clinton tweets about her latest trip to Hawaii, it is only fair that news sites have access to it — as the whole world is watching what she does. But, for the average Joe, is it ethical for reporters to share our posts in stories on, for example, underage drinking?

Say high school senior John Smith tweets, “So Drunk!” Is it okay for a reporter to quote Smith in his or her story?
After all, Smith did decide to share his business with the whole world by broadcasting it on social media.
Social media are, by definition, web sites that are used by a large group of people to share information. Therefore, the very purpose of Smith’s post is to share with a large group of people that he is “So Drunk!” However, having his underage intoxication shared with the entire world was probably not Smith’s original intention upon writing this post.
So, by putting it in a news story about underage drinking, it is taking it out of its original context, and could be judged as unethical.
On the other hand, let’s say a student at the University of Miami shares his or her views on ObamaCare.
It is fair to think that, because these tweets are being put on social media, the user who posted them wants them to be shared.
If a reporter is writing a story about students for Obama, this tweet would fit perfectly into his or her story. Likely the purpose of this post was to have it referenced to and shared further.
In this situation, it could be viewed as ethical to feature it in a story, whereas in a situation where it would humiliate or harm a user like John Smith, it is unethical and should not be done by reporters.

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