Facebook as a journalistic tool

Facebook is becoming an increasingly popular tool in media circles opening up a wide scope of new interactivity. Let’s take a look at how journalists use this social network as a part of their work.

My parents have often said that Facebook is useless. Well, they couldn’t be more wrong! Since its launch in 2004, more and more journalists use it as a professional tool. Through profiles and pages that I have looked at, I analyzed how journalists use Facebook.

Two uses for the journalists

Firstly a very valuable journalistic use of this social network is crowdsourcing. Many journalists seek interaction with the public by asking their fans for their opinion on current issues. This enables them to get large numbers of answers in record time. One of the most active journalists in the field is probably Nicholas Kristof, columnist for The New York Times, who posts articles or news links several times a week while asking his reader to give their opinion.

While browsing on Facebook, it is obvious that news is everywhere. The interaction of the users within the social network allows journalists to find which topics of interest or concern attract people. David Abiker, a radio columnist at France Info, confirmed in an interview for journ@lism.info: “Sometimes, my friends offer me news or a buzz to treat. In this case, Facebook can become a source of information. Facebook allows you to see how people react to new items.” (Read the entire interview here.)

David Abiker asking the opinion
of his Facebook fans

Secondly, Facebook is very useful when looking for testimonies. This practice ca be observed in different countries. In Switzerland, Darius Rochebin, a RTS journalist, is very active on his account: “Facebook is valuable when we are trying to find a testimony. Links can be made between Facebook friends and potential witnesses.

In France, David Abiker also uses this method:

Facebook allows me to find experts or witnesses. So when I need a particular guest, I post something like this: “David Abiker is looking for a sports psychologist”, or “David Abiker is looking for an Internet specialist”, and it works pretty well.

In the United States, Lisa Eckelbecker, a reporter for the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, also uses Facebook to search for testimonies: “Recently, I asked my Massachusetts friends if they could help me find sources for a story on supermarket retailing.

Facebook is a very useful tool in journalism because it is a huge time-saver when it comes to looking for evidence. Darius Rochebin explains: “What used to take two or three hours, now takes only few minutes. Before, it was often necessary to make dozens of phone calls to reach the person you wanted. Now, thanks to mutual friends, in a few clicks you can find what you are looking for.

Mark Zuckerberg is now friend with journalists

If journalists are now becoming increasingly aware of the potential that Facebook offers them in their work, Mark Zuckerberg’s team has been developing a strategy to attract more journalists since 2011. In April 2011, the social network launched its page “Journalists on Facebook“. The purpose of this page was to make Facebook more popular with journalists, in particular with a search engine of sources.

(Video of Mashable with Vadim Lavrusik, journalism program manager at Facebook)

In the meantime, Facebook launched a survey among journalists giving rise to five elements encouraging them to use Facebook more efficiently :

  1. Posts which include questions lead to an increase of “like” of 15%.
  2. Posts with a photo or a link collect 50% of more “likes”.
  3. Internet users comment more frequently posts published on Thursday, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, in the early morning (between 7am and 8am), at the end of the day or late in the evening.
  4. Personal thoughts included in the publication generate a higher click rate than a classical post.
  5. Topics about education, politics or journalistic analysis get more feedback than others.

(Read the entire conclusions of the survey here.)

To conclude, my parents were indeed wrong: Facebook can be useful in some areas. Mark Zuckerberg’s site has now became essential for most journalists. Even Darius Rochebin admits:

In my opinion, journalists who refuse to use Facebook are making a big mistake. Personally, I could not do without it, it has become an absolute necessity.

But, will Facebook, like Twitter, gradually become a site for professionals rather than for private users?

By Emilie Nasel 
Thank you to Darius Rochebin, who kindly agreed to answer my questions about his use of Facebook.

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