Should journalists be hanging out on Facebook? I only joined about two months ago, after some prodding from other reporter friends. My answer, though, is an emphatic yes, because I got a story within about 20 minutes of signing up.
Here’s what happened: A bioethicist who was a columnist at a magazine I was deputy editor of before coming here had sent me an invitation before I joined. So I confirmed that invitation once I signed up. Then I noticed a bunch of things about his profile page: A curious status line about having the worst month ever. A job that seemed to end abruptly. Lots of references to lawyers.
So I assigned reporters to check it out. Turned out there was a lot more. Facebook was just the tip of the iceberg. See our coverage here, here, and here.
I became a Facebook convert.
Sure, there are things journalists shouldn’t do on Facebook, if they’re going to use it to network: Announce support for a political candidate. Hide the fact that they’re reporters. There are other professional no-nos – but you get the gist. In general, though, I think Facebook is just another way to report, if you choose to use it that way. A potential tip sheet, if you will, for potential stories.
Some of these musings were prompted by David Carr’s column today, particularly this comment: “I think of Facebook as a middle ground between business and pleasure, sort of MySpace for post-adolescents or LinkedIn for professional late adopters like me.”
I said something similar to a group of journalist colleagues in March, as I was trying to extol the virtues of social networking – despite having not joined Facebook yet. My line was that LinkedIn -- which many of my colleagues felt safe joining – was Facebook with a condom. If there was something they didn’t want people to know, they could just leave it off. Which leaves MySpace as…well, ask Eliot Spitzer.
Let us know if you have any thoughts about journalists using Facebook.