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2021-07-06 14:44

Journalists are required for responsible behaviors on social networks

The CEO of Facebook - Mark Zuckerberg said that “We build technology, and we feel responsible for how it’s used”. That means there is no longer previous view that “technology companies” do not take responsibility for their public contents. In fact, these social networks are more and more consolidating and perfecting their content control mechanisms. 

Responding to this matter, the CEO of Facebook had to ask for more solutions to control and prevent these behaviors on social networks. Thereby, even the top leaders of Facebook or Google, who understand that if they do not take this matter seriously they will not only lose credibility but also bear the pressure from online community as well as from governments. 

This fact shows that in any means, malicious and fabricated information is always condemned. Nothing good can be built on a false foundation.

The press agencies are currently “racing” for capturing information together with the development of social networks

The trend of entertaining the people on Facebook

Only maximum transparency can combat fake news, however in the era where anyone can release news as currently, no matter how transparent it is, fake news can still spread widely. 
The removal or blocking of malicious and fabricated information is not the only way to create social consensus, or reduce the harmful effects of media crisis against a particular issue which is paid attention by the society.

State management agencies in general, and leaders at all levels also seem to make a change in their thinking when approaching and handling the matters of dialogue with the society on social network platform.

Through social networks, it is easy to see that the government, a number of official agencies and even politicians are using Facebook as an information channel. It seems that management agencies are tending to integrate with activities of the society through social network channels. Accordingly, social media has shown the advantage of becoming a mean of connection among the Government, politicians and the community. This is a positive trend.

There are around 60 million personal users signing up Facebook only, which consist of 60 million lifestyles, 60 million individuals with various and distinguish awareness, 60 million of different attitudes. We, therefore, must choose what to read and who to follow.
It is admitted that people are sometimes irresponsible, when they read an information and they know it is wrong, however, they do not speak up. The wrong and bad things can spread widely because we do not prevent them actively, promptly and proactively. Therefore, conservativeness and ignorance are the environment for the development of bad things. Thus, dignity and responsibility will create an environment where good people rely on, and bad ones do not dare to abuse. 

Social network is developing so rapidly that many industries, including news media, can barely keep up. The issue is that we live with social network and try to ensure good things, at the same time prevent bad things which are necessary for the new era, in which the more open the information, the better. 

In my opinion, this is the only way for Vietnam to develop and ensure sound and libral information and bind the responsibility of the writers and speakers regarding issues related to matter of honor, and dignity of other people. In fact, currently many journalists are addressing different and even contradictory attitudes, when appearing in mainstream press and on social networks. Journalists represent intellectual democracy, they play an active role in  constructing the narrative surrounding the range of opinion on a particular topic, as they seek to reflect the diversity of the public. Therefore, news media and the press must be genuine to lead the society in the right way. And reporters totally can participate in networks, even take part in this environment more; it is necessary to consider this the best place to demonstrate their obligation to the society, process the work of releasing information and orientation as well as guidance in order to create a healthy social trend. The journalists who are trained basically or professionally must be able to do this successfully. With the current number of more than 20,000 reporters and journalists, if this work has been done correctly and strictly, it will create a great influence on the society. A serious attitude with create an environment where good people can rely on and bad ones do not dare to be aggressive. The State and press management agencies have to take charge of this work. Management must be appropriate, then it will create standard regulations and right decisions. 

The fast growth of social media all over the world

Journalists are required to behave professionally and ethically on social networks

Facebook or social networks in general are all tools and technological achievements, so it would be wasteful to refuse and ignore them. Therefore, journalists should be more and more actively open to them and take advantages of social networks to serve their work and practice. Any journalist can practice on Facebook platform, provided that he or she behaves responsibly to the online community and even to himself or herself. Otherwise if these technological achievements are used for bad purposes, there will be serious consequences to the whole society. Journalists are different from other reporters. They need to take responsibility for the released information. A journalist must always determine that he will be consistently loyal to the truth, he ensures the prompt and quick information while predicting that such information will bring benefits or cause issues to the society. This is optional and not compulsory to each journalist.

At present, the trend of doing journalism in the style of whatever it takes has just emerged, as long as getting high view rate and attracting as much viewers as possible, even this can cause harm to comrades or teammates, or sacrifice both ideal and content. In my opinion, it is immoral to do journalism in this manner. There are things we know that can make much money, we still refuse to do due to one reason: Ethics. Therefore, we cannot distort the reputation and image of our comrades and colleagues, cannot distort the truth just for increasing the “views”.
The key point that needs to be clarified is how journalists should take part in social networks and how to set journalism on its route to the professional identity. The current worrying trend is that a lot of reporters and journalists join social networks and they forget that they are not only ordinary citizens but also journalists, they therefore revealed personal viewpoints contrary to the ones of the press agencies where they are working. When posting status and comments on social networks, journalists have certain, even quite influent impact in leading online community and the same professionals around them. Thereby, there have been cases that some journalists cause negative impact on their friends, address viewpoints violating professional ethical standards and internal regulations of their press agencies. Currently, there have been many journalists committed serious violations and their press cards were revoked. Specifically, a lot of journalists spoke up erroneous viewpoints on social networks, they then were disciplined and suspended from their current position or they submitted their resignations and returned press cards … Those are very specific cases and also very unfortunate cases.

Obviously, management authorities, Vietnam Journalist Association concern whether the acts and statements of journalist on social networks violate the 10 principles of professional ethics and other provisions of law as well as internal regulations of their work place or not. A part of journalists usually violates such regulations and they still commit wrong acts intentionally. They do these actions as they think that they have another power on social networks, maybe this is the feeling of having an increase in followers at some moment, however, such power or impact also may be attributed to specific material interests. There are a number of journalists participating in social networks as their key activity and even the main income. Press agencies need to have code of conduct and internal regulations regarding the participation of reporters and journalists into social networks so that they will never forget limitations due to professional ethics and public service ethics prescribed by their press agencies when taking part in social networks.

We always seek ways to expand the freedom of expression for journalists in daily life and on social networks. However, this freedom cannot be confused with blasphemy. We need to understand that this freedom ends when we offend others, or violate code of conduct or regulations of our agencies or agreed rules and provisions. Because those things violate moral principles of an ordinary person, let alone a journalist. A journalist must be honest and consistent no matter where he is.

Even if personal Facebook page is private, it is also social. We must have responsibility to appear on social networks politely as we do in everyday life or in the workplace. I think this is so easy to do with kind and scrupulous people who do not intentionally use social networks to create the illusion of their true value.

About 25 years ago, the senior journalist Huu Tho said “A black power seems to be forming in the press. They have a powerful team working together, praise and criticize together”. Until today, this fact has not only decreased but also tended to increase. 

A workshop to find solutions for press agencies to face the challenges of cyberspace development organized by VUSTA in 2017

Wisdom, responsibility and direction for good will

One needs "Wisdom" because if one is a journalist, he must be an educated person and the Party assigns him to work on the ideological front, so whatever he does, he has to think carefully for the sake of the people, for the sake of the nation, for his own honor. Therefore, the intellectual reflex is both a professional reflex and a political reflex - which is indispensable to a journalist.

And "Responsibility": It is the responsibility to the people, the responsibility to the truth. That's what journalists need.

Third, "direction for good will" is that he writes all information, even criticism needs to be directed to good direction. He should not rush to condemn, but raises the issue and directs public opinion. I think this is also very important.

Being serious with each other is moral, being easy on each other is a crime. In management, it is necessary to classify and classify to manage correctly. It is obvious that good people should have freedom, we have to trust them, we pay more attention to people who are not so good; and those who are not good need a strict management mechanism.

Thus, we must take a reasonable step, combining both legal, ethical and technical tools, so that reporters - journalists who are trusted by the people contribute to a better society. It is also the responsibility of annual management and screening of the Ministry of Information and Communications.

Nowadays, in the age of social networks and connected media, the harm of news articles that distort the truth, written by a person without a conscience of a standard journalist, has a much greater social impact than that of more than 20 years ago.

I don't understand ever since, a part of Vietnamese journalists think they are a force, they are a powerful agency; they think they have the right to judge based on feelings, based on their ability to lead public opinion without evidence. They rely on slightly better language skills than an average person to make excuses, to swap concepts, to use mass effect, to rely on purely emotional comments - which they still say "typing faster than thinking".

They justify it as they are fighting for the truth, but in the written content, readers do not only see the negligence in working but also the "maliciousness" of the writer. The "maliciousness" is writing to cause harm - one of the things that should be taboo, not to mention violating the moral rights, privacy rights, and legal rights of individuals and organizations.

Many press agency leaders believe that social networks have helped the press to develop in many ways, but also created a fierce information competition environment that creates challenges for the press. The biggest challenge for the newspaper industry in general is the tendency to behave easily and use social networking tools to amplify the influence of some journalists, with the intention of becoming a "black power". These parts are making the whole newspaper village lose its footing, gradually losing its prestige in the hearts of readers.

We "cry" that social media will take away the future of journalism, take away its revenue, but it is we who are abetting the evil that prevails by thinking that journalism must be exactly the same as social networks, must "swing" according to the fad, the trends on social media to "earn likes". It is this way of journalism that is making the press a voluntary prisoner of the business model that social networks are offering and accelerating itself to self-destruction.

We can't blame social media, because it has its own reason for existence, has a positive impact on democratizing social life, making people more connected. But the harmful effects of social media are partly due to the users who are contributing to its negative effects. They are not aware of their responsibility in orienting society towards good direction. The general trend of society is in the good direction and society will eliminate journalists and newspapers that go against that trend.

The press will be strongly influenced by social networks and social networks are an opportunity for the press to assert itself. The right and serious journalism style is the factor that makes up the value of the mainstream press that the whole society needs and the world needs. And it's not just the sentences and words.

The role of "portal guard" of the press is still valid when social networks are like a "tank" of information, but the problem is how we verify the information. In the same interaction, social networks have indirectly promoted a new working process for journalists. How to effectively exploit social networks in their work, so that the mainstream press can keep its position before the development of social media, and to maintain pride with the title "Journalist" is a problem that modern journalists, each editorial office must find a satisfactory solution.

Author: Le Hong (VUSTA - 6/2021)

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