Saturday, March 05, 2005

The Facebook as reportorial tool

The Facebook was all the rage in journalism circles at the end of last year. In brief, it's a site, segregated by school, that lets you log on and network (if they also are members) with classmates, alumni, and (shudder) staff and faculty.

It's all the rage in the Carolina Reporter newsroom where I spend part of my days.

It's also, it turns out, a decent reporting tool. The other day, we had one of those names in a story that was made up of two "first" names, raising the question of whether we had it in the right order -- you know, the "Is it Patrick John or John Patrick?" (not the real name)

Of course, it wasn't in the university directory, as out of date as that can be sometimes. So one of our enterprising students logged on to her Facebook account and there our person was, picture, profile and all (we did get it right the first time, by the way).

The Facebook is supposed to segregate by college because the logon is based on a college e-mail address. But with so many people taking part-time classes and so many schools now having alumni e-mail, you might stand a chance of coming across someone at a school you need who would let you "borrow" a logon. But every newsroom probably ought to find the graduates on its staff from local schools and arrange to create logons. Especially in these days of federal education privacy laws, this might be the first way you get a lead on someone for a story.

The Washington Post reported in December that 1 million students in 300 schools use the Facebook.


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