During the past couple of weeks, I’ve noticed that an increasing number of my fellow journalism majors have been posting Facebook statuses about story assignments. One student asked to hear from political conservatives on campus, and another wanted to talk to students who are studying abroad.
Earlier today I decided to try out the tactic for myself. I needed sources for a trend story. So I posted a status asking if anyone had contacts with a connection to Teach for America. Surely out of the hundreds of friends, relatives, and acquaintances I have on Facebook, a few would help me out.
An hour and a half later, I had three sources. After two more hours, I had three more.
Not only had people sent me the names of potential sources, one friend even sent me the link to a charity event that will benefit Teach for America.
I realized that Facebook is a more powerful tool than I had previously realized. Users display networks, groups, fan pages, personal interests and upcoming events. Any of these elements might provide valuable information for stories. Tracking down preliminary sources is no harder than logging in and doing some investigating.
Have any of you used your status to recruit sources? Do you know of other Facebook-related reporting techniques?