Sourcing just got easier

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?


Linda Blachly said...

I agree with Gabby's post on "Outsourcing Just Got Easier," by using Facebook and other types of social media to get story ideas and sources.
As an "old school" journalist, I usually overlook this gold mine of sources and story ideas. Thanks for the "heads up."
In the past, I have directed my staff (and students) to find sources using Facebook and am always thrilled when they turned up contact information. In fact, now that I think about it, that's how I first contacted Julia Norris, the subject of my multimedia project who adopted a boy from China and helped him to find his roots.
After this class, I will definitely join the 21st century myself!

Tricia said...

I have never used Facebook to source my stories, but a woman I used to work with at Bmore Live seems to do it a lot. I noticed her status the other day was a shout-out to anyone who had ever tried online dating and had funny/odd stories about it. I think she was writing a freelance piece about it. Seems like a great way to go about it- if people are on Facebook, there is a chance they use other social networking sites.

Matt said...

Not only does Facebook provide the good service of getting reporters in contact with sources, but it also provides a means for you to circulate your own work, which can help you collaborate with other writers, gain a following, build your resume, etc. Sometimes making sure your friends/associates/former employers/future employers are reading your content is just important as finding sources!