Archive | April, 2012

Journalists and Facebook: Keep it personal

4 Apr

Journalists and Facebook are a near-perfect match. It’s a dream come true for finding sources: People are willing to share all kinds of information about themselves for free on a site that can be accessed anywhere in the world at any time of day. They can be reached by personal message or public post. They are likely to spell their own names correctly, so fact-checking is made that much easier. But Facebook also provides tools and opportunities to engage people that other social networks haven’t quite caught up to.

Asking questions and inviting people to share opinions can be a great way for journalists to engage their Facebook friends and get people talking. With the responses, journalists can get a feel for how people feel about certain topics — the key here, however, is having a diverse “friends list.” “Friending” people in the community can make it easier to put a finger on issues they care about, and journalists can come up with story ideas based on responses to simple questions such as, “What’s the No. 1 thing you wish your city commissioners would pay attention to?”

Tools, such as the Journalists on Facebook page, allow journalists to cater the site to their needs. By pooling resources and sharing tips, journalists can create a community of information that can be shared in seconds. The Subscribe tool, which allows users to subscribe to a person’s news feed without actually friending them, can be useful to journalists and readers alike: With it, readers can get journalists’ updates and links to stories, but journalists don’t have to worry about the implications of friending potential sources.

I’ve promoted by personal blog with status updates that include links to my blog, which I have on two sites: Tumblr and WordPress. In the updates, I keep my tone casual and make sure my voice comes through; after all, when I post a status update, I know I’m reaching my friends and family. It would be strange if I were suddenly formal (“Please take a moment to visit my blog, which can be found here…”), so I kept it light (“You’ve probably all heard me talk about them before, but if you want to know why I go on about my favorite band so much, read this blog post!”). The results were immediate: Two people “liked” the update almost as soon as I posted it.

Personality is a huge component of social media, and on Facebook, you are the product. The more you can sell your own persona, the better. People respond to people — simple as that.

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Case Study 9: Avoiding unintentional bias

4 Apr

As a general rule, a good check against unintentional bias is having multiple editors for stories. Questions of bias and the weight of using one word/phrase over another arise in newsrooms all the time, and the more voices in the discussion, the better. There’s no telling how certain phrases/omissions/you name it will be interpreted by readers, and writers and editors should be prepared to question everything they write and edit. They should look at it from as many angles as possible to ensure published copy is as clean and objective as possible.

In the case of this story of a grandfather intentionally killing his daughter and her family, the question of how many people were killed – and, essentially, who counts as a person – is one that can at least be worked around, if not answered outright.

As an editor of this story, instead of headlining it, “Grandfather charged in blaze that killed 3,” I would make the headline something like, “Grandfather charged in blaze that killed family” (or “Man charged in blaze that killed family,” if space is an issue). Doing so eliminates the issue of saying in the headline how many people were killed, which may be “cheating” somewhat, but in this case, I don’t think it’s necessary. The fact that this man killed his own family is the story. I think it’s important to explain the full situation and why the grandfather is being charged with three counts of first-degree murder and one count of intentional homicide of an unborn child, but that can be left for later in the story.