As a D.C. crime and criminal justice beat reporter for The Washington Post, Emily Davies has a few strategies for understanding how her sources see the world. Following people she covers on social media — including some public officials, but mostly “community folks” — helps her “know what they’re doing day to day, how they’re thinking, and it helps me stay connected,” she said. Because many of her sources use Instagram, that platform plays a central role in fostering those virtual connections.
But Davies used to follow sources from her personal Instagram account, which created a dilemma familiar to many reporters: Where to draw personal and professional boundaries? The sources she followed “requested to follow me back,” she told me in an interview, which left her conflicted. Davies felt some desire to maintain a separation between the personal account full of pictures of her friends and family, and people she knew professionally, but also wanted to open up part of herself to the people who shared so much with her for her work.
“I started thinking about how I could be more transparent and vulnerable with them in ways that I asked them to be with me,” she said, “without opening my entire personal life and making myself a part of their story.”