Social Journalism on Facebook

Facebook_and_Journalists A couple of weeks ago, Facebook launched a page for journalists. The goal is to attract journalists from the global community — at the time of this writing, there are 47,592 likes on the page.

As Josh Constine wrote last week, Facebook is looking to encourage the news community to use the site’s Page feature as a distribution and research tool. His argument: Twitter is easier, faster, and requires less time commitment.

Twitter as broadcasting medium is more compelling than a deeper conversation thread, something journalists are not really used to and don't have the time to pick through. Plus, Facebook may invite noise in the comments, just like many mainstream media publications.

In its announcement, Facebook covered some examples of journalists already using Pages.

Since its inception, people have been sharing news with friends, and it’s no surprise that reporters, from college level to international outlets, have also been using Facebook for years. More recently, we’ve see some great examples for how Facebook can be used as a reporting tool, including:

Other readers from all  over the world listed their favorite journalists on Facebook in this thread. I looked at how Kristof engages fans as well. In that post, I pointed to some of the very ways that make Facebook a more useful social tool than Twitter:

6. use of video and photography — of course you could still upload to YouTube or Vimeo and tweet the link. On Facebook, you can have it all in one place.

7. the story behind the story, which is very compelling to readers, stays there to gain comments over time. On Twitter, it would just disappear in the stream.

8. notes to articles written by others start good discussions — this is another advantage Facebook has over Twitter where you can convey information and commentary in more than 140 characters.

9. the idea that most of the material is real time appeals to online users — and when those readers comment and add information, the thread becomes even more appealing to others.

Rather than seeing it as a substitute to a journalist's existing Web site and Twitter presence, I would see this as another source of conversation and connection. However, you don't get there by behaving in the same way as you do on Twitter or your Web site. 

As several point out in the comments to Constine's post, some of the concerns are:

  • time suck vs. other activities, like writing stories, that pay
  • Facebook is more social and broader as a potential audience, which could turn out to mean people are more interested in gossip and chatting up friends than news
  • even if it's smaller, the open and public nature of Twitter makes it easier to find and spread links while Facebook may take more doing to achieve the same or similar results
  • Facebook's Top News / Most Recent system is also not ideal for consuming breaking news

Early days for all of this. Just a few short years ago, journalists were still grappling with the idea of interaction, that readers would be responding to their stories in real time and expect a conversation to ensue.

Open questions

While there are clear advantages to using Facebook, for example, a journalist can do wonder for his brand, and really build an audience. Is reaching readers directly through Facebook compelling enough without a monetary component attached to conversation?

Will publications and journalists issue corrections to stories in real time? Would you help set the record straight on a story facts and figures using Facebook vs. the Web site or trying to reach the editorial team?

How about adding information and your own role, product, or service on a story where you were not included? As I alluded when discussing what to do when the story gets written without you in it. Would you be willing and able to do that on Facebook?


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