The journey continues: My ethical quest and my future trip to England

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I think most of my classmates know me, but for those that don’t and for the rest of the Internet:

Hello from Florida! Amanda Winkle here! I’m entering the third semester on my journey through the University of Florida master’s in mass communications with an emphasis on social media.

I was transplanted to the Sunshine State as a teen and have been enjoying the snowless winters ever since! I still cheer for the Wisconsin teams (Packers, Brewers, Badgers and Bucks) but I also cheer for my husband’s beloved Jacksonville Jaguars.

Since our instructor Justin Kings is based in England, that has me thinking about my plans to take a trip to the UK upon graduation. Here’s why:

amanda and karen

My cousin Karen and I in 2006. We look NOTHING alike (insert sarcasm here).

1. I would really like to visit my cousin Karen, who moved to Oxford about two years ago after she married a nice bloke named John. I never got to visit her while she was living in New York City for school, so I’d love to see her and John now that they’ve settled into married life in England.

2. The Jaguars will be playing one game a year at Wembley Stadium through 2016, so it would be awesome to see my local team on the other side of the pond.

3. I love the Beatles, whether it’s their solo or individual work (I’m going to see Paul McCartney for the third time in June). I would absolutely freak if I got to cross Abbey Road like all the other tourists.

I could go on and on about why I’d be jazzed to go to England … but now on to ethics!

I’ve spent years working in newsrooms and to me, ethics has always been very important. Much of the public already has a mistrust of media because of a few occasions when journalists/news organizations have not held themselves to a high ethical standard, thereby tarnishing the reputation of the good guys.

There are very obvious rules to follow — don’t record someone without their consent, don’t accept gifts for the coverage of stories, avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest, etc. However, the rise of social media has created a new set of questions — in what context is it acceptable to use a photo Tweeted by a celebrity? When it comes to picking up a viral story from another news outlet, is asking for permission necessary? And, the almighty question, at what point can you cite a story you see breaking on social media?

These are all questions many journalists face on a daily basis, and these questions usually have to be answered very quickly in order to move on to the next story. I’m hoping this class will help me answer those questions so I may continue to be a good newsroom citizen on behalf of my community.

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Social media beyond my wildest dreams

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621575_10101255293832941_1168116338_oGreetings classmates and the World Wide Web!

If you would have told me when I was a high school newspaper intern 10 years ago that I would be embarking on a mass communications masters program that concentrates on social media, I would have said “what’s social media?”

As I went on to study magazine journalism at the University of South Florida, I couldn’t have imagined that our phones would become “smart” and would be able to bring us information anywhere, anytime – and in some cases, even push information to us through app alerts and breaking news texts. I surely couldn’t have imagined that I would one day be a web producer at a television station and pushing news alerts would become part of my regular job duties.

Sharing and gathering information has changed and it’s important to roll with those changes to stay relevant. Through working for news organizations over the past five-plus years, I have seen how Twitter and Facebook can be used for “crowd sourcing,” whether that’s using the platforms to find sources for stories or simply asking readers/viewers what they think about a certain story. I have also found that social media also allows people to give instant feedback on what we’re doing and even become our eyes and ears in the community, sending in pictures and messages so we can check out possible breaking news.

For me personally, social media has become a good way to stay in touch. The world is becoming more spread out and people want to feel connected, even when they are not physically close to each other. I have friends and family in Wisconsin, England and Taiwan (shout out to my friend Annie Liao at Yahoo!), but thanks to social media, specifically Facebook, I am able to be part of their day through their status updates. Likewise, I’m able to give them a glimpse into my day through my postings.

I do believe that social media is a powerful tool, but I think there is such a thing as “over sharing.” What do you think? For example, if I’m fighting with my husband, I don’t Tweet  or Facebook about it. Since I use my social accounts as kind of a personal/professional hybrid, I ask myself the question, “Am I going to be ashamed later on that I shared this?” Once in a great while, I do use my social networks for “venting,” but I find that I post something more productive if I sleep on it rather than posting in the heat of the moment.

As my stepdad tells me, “you can always improve,” so that is my thought process in entering this degree program. Am I doing pretty good with social media in my professional/personal life? Could I do a better job? Of course. I’ve placed a bet on myself and my future through this huge undertaking of continuing my studies. But I’ve done it knowing I will come out the other side a better person professionally and personally.