Social Networking for Journalism

By Anna Kowalczyk, University of Maryland
Facebook is no longer solely for making friends and sharing bumper stickers.

As journalism evolves, journalists need to move beyond the pen and paper and begin utilizing tools available through the internet. Facebook is often a good place to start. As a writer and public relations intern for College Magazine and a staff writer at my college’s student paper, I have used Facebook to reach out to a larger group than would have been possible through simple phone calls and traditional reporting.
I started a recent story on college pregnancy for College Magazine ( by sending a message to all of my Facebook friends asking if they knew any college students who were pregnant or parenting while in school. Though I did not receive many helpful responses, I then began to search for pregnancy groups on Facebook. I joined the groups and made discussion board posts, explaining my story and asking for women to volunteer to tell their story. I also contacted admins of the groups as many of them were pregnant or parenting themselves. These two final steps were the most helpful. Many girls contacted me and were happy to share their stories and experiences. Because social networking is an international form of communication, I was able to reach girls from all over the country, and if needed, I could have reached girls from around the world.

On a more local level, I use social networking for my school newspaper, the University of Maryland’s The Diamondback. When writing a story on the bombing in Mumbai , I did not know any students who were closely affected by the event, and because the event occurred over Thanksgiving break, traditional reporting was impossible. To solve the problem, I found Palestinian and Indian student groups from my campus and made discussion posts and e-mailed students in the group. 
I’ve also used the messaging to reach out to large groups of students about specific opinions. 
When I was writing a story on new cameras placed in our rec center, I sent out mass messages to students asking for their opinion on the issue. I included a few specific questions about privacy, use, etc. to help direct responses. Surprisingly, students do often reply to these messages. 
Though I would not rely upon Facebook for all of my reporting, it is a good way to get a jump-start into a story. After making contacts on Facebook, I always do a follow-up phone call to make sure I understood all that was meant by the messages and that there was no ambiguity.

26 thoughts on “Social Networking for Journalism”

  1. I found this article rather interesting because I am a big user of Facebook, and I use it almost every day. I feel that Facebook is an important part of our society because not only can you meet new people and become aquainted with people in your classes and school, but it is a good way to get the word out about certain events or topics that are going on in our society. Journalists can learn to use Facebook to gather statistics and make things well known. Facebook can be used to receive comments and opinions on a scenario or topic and see how people feel about certrain issues.
    I liked this article because I could relate to using Facebook, and I feel that I could possibly use this website in the future to further my Journalism experiences.

  2. although facebook can be a great tool for journalists, this seems a bit over the top for me. it is legal for information to be taken when people put it out there, but it is a bit of a scare that they will be taking your personal information just for a story. some people have personal things up on facebook and don’t want it in print; it is comparable to tabloids taking not necessarily true information about celebrities. they are people too and do not want to be ridiculed and exposed.

  3. Frankly, this is great. I use Faceboom pretty much every day, so the fact that I can use it to help my reporting is great. I’ve actually used Facebook to coordinate this sort of thing in the past. I lead the annual marching band yearbook at our school, and we’ve done polling and such online, so it’s actually fairly similar. I also like it because I don’t see a lot of my friends these days due to time constraints, so it’s great that I could still interview them even if I don’t see them on a regular basis.

  4. This article was very interesting because now journalist can communicate with people that they might not know and that live in places where these events are occurring. Because so many people use facebook a large variety of people can give there opinion on a large variety of subjects.

  5. I think this is an interesting way to use facebook. Although it seems as if it is a good source, i’m not sure that i would do the same. I would not go searching on facebook for people around the nation or the world for a story. It is a good place to start if the people you are talking to are at your school or people that you are aquanted with. It seems like a little too much to talk to people you dont know about personal issues.

  6. I found this article very interesting because i can see how facebook would be an effective tool for journalists. Its a fast way to contact alot of people at the same time to find out information on either your topic or just to even find out who the best source would be to contact to find out more information. You could also potentially use it to get statistics on certain topics. I think facebook is going to open up alot of doors for journalists and make their lives easier by making it easier to reach out to different age groups. You can get opinions alot easier from age groups that you may not have been able to contact as easy. I liked this article mostly because i use facebook alot and it was very easy for me to see the benefits of using it for a profession as well as for the social aspect.

  7. I think the author makes an excellent point in this post. Facebook can be an excellent tool for gathering useful information for journalism stories. Facebook is such a huge social network that is used by millions of people from different backgrounds and interests, so it is very easy to reach out to a very broad audience. You can make a post asking for information regarding your news story and with so many people using Facebook you are almost guaranteed to find someone who has information that is useful to your topic. Using this method, you will be able to find a lot of personal stories and experiences that will make your writing piece way more interesting and compelling to the reader. As a facebook user, I am really interested by this idea and I think it’s great suggestion

  8. This article is very interesting, using facebook and social sites for journalism tools is an interesting way to go about reporting and doing it in a more social way online. It is a good way of getting in touch with specific people you need to contact or someone who is an not able to get you information in person. However I think it is much different than person to person interviewing in how there is no real face to face communication. This could some how limit the way you percieve your information.

  9. I thought this article was very interesting because I never really thought of facebook as a way of reaching out to people for journalism before. It’s true though, facebook gives people the opportunity to talk to people they don’t know very well and get their opinions and feelings about certain topics. The groups facebook has can help a journalist focus on a certain group of people and talk only to them or they can contact a majority of their school. Facebook will help journalists write articles and stories a lot faster than they could in the past and will improve journalism overall.

  10. Facebook has been generalized as a website to just talk with friends or get the lowdown on a party, but as seen in this article it is much more than that this man has opened different groups or searched for groups that had to do with his topic. He found a group of women that are pregnant and are in school which matched up with his topic. I think if he did not use this technique he wouldve had a tougher time finding these women to talk to and wouldve taken much time and effort.

  11. This article was quite interesting. As a student I am only familiar with facebook as a way to interact with friends but this article showed how it can be really put to use in getting things done. I thought it was a very efficient idea to ask all the people you know on facebook to contact people that would be useful to your story. I think it’s a great idea and may even try it myself.

  12. I found this article interesting, because most of the time Facebook and similar social-networking websites get trashed and people point out all the negatives. The truth is there are just as many positives to using Facebook as well. As the student in this article demonstrates, it provides an easy way for students to reach out others if they need quick feedback, input on an idea, or anything else. It helps people to get feedback and be able to accomplish goals, such as creating groups for various causes. I think that being able to do these things is great, and besides using it to talk to my friends it is very possible I may have to use it in college for student research or some other, beneficial, purpose.

  13. Your article was very helpful. It sucks when you feel like you have hit a dead end in your story writing. I found it interesting how you used something like Facebook to bring your story back to life. As a student I would be interested in hearing people’s stories from throughout the country so that it does not seem like teen pregnancy and parenting only happens in your town. It is nice to hear that you did not take the fact that it was thanksgiving break to kill your story on the bombing in Mumbai. Using Facebook to get a story started is a really good idea. I would definitely consider looking for Facebook groups for my school to see what people are thinking about a subject that I want to write a story about.

  14. This article was very interesting and informative on how Facebook is now being used for journalism. More and more people are relying on Facebook to get their information. It is a good way to support your facts, and to get a greater understanding on the topic you are to write about, but how reliable is it? It is better to get direct quotes from people so that you can ask them to clarify their answer, should there be confusion. It also gives you a greater understanding of their emotions. Facebook is a great tool for all journalists to use, but should not be their number one source. It is important for journalists to have face to face conversations, and to go out and reach the rest of the population that isn’t on Facebook.

  15. I found this article really interesting. People these days are constantly on Facebook. Everyone uses it to communicate with others, and now people can use it to get different ideas and opinions from other people. People that have a Facebook can use it to find out what kind of news is going on around them. Also, journalists can get sources for their writing from all different people that live all around the world.

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