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When Journalists Become the News in the Age of Social Media

There is no doubt social media has radically altered the news room, and the entire journalism profession. While the vast majority of editors, reporters, writers and broadcasters have scrambled to fit in an entire new medium and audience into what is often an overwhelming schedule, a few (and growing number) have stood out, carving niches and new positions . In Canada we can look to CBC’s Kady O’Malley (@Kady) whose twitter feed on the daily drama in Parliament is an education; Andy Carvin (@acarvin) from NPR who curated and sorted on citizen media throughout the Arab Spring and

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys (@TheMatthewKeys). Matthew is young, only 26, and just over year into a position as deputy social media editor at Reuters in New York, one he came to after stints as a reporter in California. His online presence: erudite, prolific without being overwhelming, searching and questioning, and often humorous, helped quickly build a large following, likely securing the job. One reason Matthew has risen among the ‘noted’ of online journalists: he connects. Not simply broadcasting his employer’s articles, he asks questions, responds – has even caught me out with a few corrections (grateful).

Which is why the news today a California court has indicted Matthew Keys, accusing him of supplying log in information for Tribune websites to Anonymous leading to a LA Times hack, has shocked many. (You can read the full indictment here). It is this Guardian article which provides more clues: one which I suggest everyone read before jumping to conclusions as to innocence or guilt. He has investigated Anonymous, identifying himself as a journalist, and now is caught up a a US legal system which recently has proved to be zealous in prosecuting alleged hacking cases.

Of course, for any journalist to become the news, and in a legal situation, is difficult personally, and for the organization who employs them: even more so in the age of social media, and especially when said journalist is responsible for that aspect of the job. What might be a matter for the California legal system spread quickly with reports on the indictment of Matthew Keys across the world, with, of course, social media weighing in.

I have never met Matthew Keys, though would do so in an instant, with pleasure.  We have connected on both Twitter and Facebook since 2010/11, had many conversations, shared news – and I’ve delighted in following a young, capable and ambitious journalist rising to a position of responsibility at Reuters, largely through his own hard work and keen sense of digital media. Although it is only a few hours since the news of the indictment, it is also worth noting that (so far) Reuters has neither suspended, or moved him to another position.

This is a cautionary tale, one everyone engaged in social media should watch – journalists,  citizen media, activists – even those who simply retweet a message. As much as media are catching up to the social media space, the legal system and law enforcement are far behind. We should all recede from judgement on this particular case until the facts unfold, but recognize there is nothing online, nor a shred of anecdotal evidence that Matthew Keys has been dis-ingenuous to his audience or employers: personally or professionally.



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