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News organizations use social media to share breaking news, provide useful information and highlight the work of their journalists. It’s when the word “promote” comes into play that trouble arises.

A Facebook status update about this month’s cover story? Like.

A Pinterest board that showcases staff photos from homecoming or prom? Let the pins begin.

A tweet cheering the basketball team on to victory in this week’s big game?

Hold off on counting those retweets.

Is it appropriate to cheer the team on to victory in a news story? Of course not.  Then why do it with social media?

While it’s tempting to yield to the urging of a coach, faculty sponsor or classmate to give a social media shout-out to an upcoming event, it’s vital to stop and think about the impact of such messaging on a publication’s reputation for fairness, credibility and trustworthiness.

One “go team” message leads to another. And another. And another. If you do it for one group, it’s only fair to do it for all. And then it won’t be long before your social media platforms collectively act as the school house organ rather than a journalism showcase.

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