Face + book = people

Face + book. Photo: mattcameasarat/flickr

TOPIC: Using Facebook to research a story and find people to interview.

TASK: Use Facebook to find information and a person or people to interview for a story (written or audio). Before you start, write a paragraph explaining what your story is about, and how you’re going to tell it.

Your story may be presented in any way you choose – ‘soft news’ style, Q&A/interview style, or an audio interview by phone (which might suit radio students best).

READ: Five Ways Journalists Can Use Facebook, by Tony Rogers, About.com

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Facebook is used by a mind-boggling number of people on the planet, which is more than just an interesting fact. For journalists and media practitioners, the Facebook community is a well-connected, vast pool of resources of the best kind – people. It’s likely you’ve been using Facebook for a while now, and know its ins and outs fairly well. It’s also likely that you’ve used Facebook as a way to connect with friends and family, rather than as a tool for finding stories, or finding people to interview for one of your stories.

This week we’re going to use Facebook as journalists would use it. You might start with a group or page which has formed in response to an issue, for example the Cystic Fibrosis NSW page, or a geographic community such as Republic of Newtown.

Other examples might include ‘Best Bands Ever to Play at The Trade Union Club’ after joining and making a call for suggestions in the I drank at the Sydney Trade Union Club Facebook group (it’s public – just join and ask a question 😉 ) Or maybe you want to explore the idea of communities that gather around a really specific interest, such as crochet and knitting, or ‘doomsday prepping’. You might also find something that sparks an idea for a story: upcoming Bollywood events in Australia, anyone?

You might also start with a story idea first. For a story about how desperately carers in our community need the NDIS you might start with info and research first, and then visit a Facebook discussion group such as MS Get Involved or the NDIS Grassroots Discussion group to find people to speak with.

Remember: if you have a Facebook account and a group of friends, you’re already connected to a large group of people and potential sources of information, because your friends know more friends, and they in turn know even more. So if your story idea is interesting enough, you could find yourself connected to a large number of people who are eager to help.

The rules of interviewing and asking for information via Facebook are the same as for face to face or email interviewing. You must introduce yourself (though your Facebook profile probably does that quite effectively), say where you’re from, and state your purpose. Note that some groups will have strict rules about posting and approaching members for information. It’s a good idea to approach the admin first (read the ‘About’ section on the page or in the group) and explain what you’re hoping to do.

Because you’re intending to publish your story, you must also say so, to give your interviewees a chance to consider their involvement. It might help to post a link to your WordPress blog, so they can see any work you’ve done and get an idea of where they will be featured.

When you’ve finished your story and published it on your blog, as a courtesy you should send your subject a link (via Facebook is fine, but via email is better). You should also tweet a link to your Twitter followers and to me (@babelfishes). Have fun 🙂

SOME USEFUL FACEBOOK PAGES/GROUPS FOR JOURNALISTS:

Facebook + Journalists – a US-based FB page for journos. It’s not local, but there are some great tips and ideas on the page

Australian Centre for Independent Journalism (ACIJ) – an open FB group

The Walkley Foundation

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Author: veritychambers

Journalist and teacher

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