In a post earlier this month, I noted that a reader pointed to what the reader called "hashtag advocacy" in a tweet on Religion News Service's institutional account.
Another reader objected to that characterization of RNS' tweet, replying to @GetReligion.
Via @GetReligion, I responded to the reader, Melissa Steffan, a Web developer and writer.
I certainly appreciate Steffan engaging with GetReligion. We love these kind of discussions, which are important to our profession of journalism.
She claims that "it's not 'advocacy' when you use a popular hashtag" and notes that "social media markets use hashtags not necessarily to support a cause, but to get a tweet in front of more viewers."
But journalists are a different animal, or should be.
That's why journalists must be careful with the hashtags that they choose — and make sure not to convey any hint of bias.
The Poynter.org article to which I pointed Steffan explains the ethical dilemma that journalists face:
(I)t does appear now more than ever that people and the media are becoming more selective about how and when to use hashtags — meaning sometimes not at all. At the same time, when we do use hashtags for certain stories, we’re finding ourselves grappling with the ethical implications of using community-generated classifications to enter existing conversations.