Saying whatever you want online may affect your future career plans

‘What kind of persona are you projecting on social media?’

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The content you share throughout social media deeply reflects your moral character.

While it is legal to exercise your right to speak your mind freely, it is not always the smartest thing to do, which was the main message of the keynote speaker during the Journalism Association of Community Colleges’ Virtual Fall Conference from Nov. 6-8.

Steve Padilla, Column One editor at the Los Angeles Times, said that journalism comes with sacrifices. It is important to consider the kind of persona you are projecting to the world and to remember that everything can be found online.

“If you want to be an activist, be an activist,” Padilla said. “But if you want to be a journalist, be a journalist, you have to set that stuff apart.”

Padilla said that regardless of the career you want to have in the future, your identity must always be consistent offline and online.

“There are no personal ethics, work ethics and social media ethics,” Padilla said. “Potential employers, and even PR professionals, are going to look you up on social media.”

Padilla said that if being a journalist is in your potential career radar, you need to be extra careful in keeping your opinion checked, be neutral, balanced and fair at all times.

Alfredo Carbajal, president of the American Society of News Editors and managing editor of Dallas-based Al Día, was quoted in an article published by the Nieman website as saying, “We are giving up the prerogatives most citizens have to express our point of view. I cannot maintain credibility if I make a distinction between this is what I see as a person and this is what I see as a journalist.”

Padilla said that when in doubt or faced with an ethical dilemma, before writing, you should ask yourself questions like:

  • What is the purpose or the goal of my post? Is it to inform, entertain, make someone angry, to show off?
  • What is the best platform to post? Who will be affected by the post? Think about the people involved, how might they be harmed and is the harm justified?
  • How fast do you need to post it? Do you need to post that thought in 30 seconds? More often than not, the answer is no.

Journalist and social media etiquette expert Germany Kent, author of the book “You are what you Tweet,” wrote, “Your Twitter profile is your business card. It creates a first impression about who you are. It serves as a mini-resume as well as your mini-autobiography.”