Facebook is no longer a college kid rolodex. It’s becoming part of emerging new media in the country — a distribution network for causes as well as news and opinion.
I’m about to recruit my 900th friend on Facebook. Now this is nothing compared to General Wesley Clark who has 4,299 friends — or NPR’s Carl Kassell with 3, 471 friends.
Although I am good friends with Wes Clark in real life, I’m still waiting for him (or the person minding his shop) to accept my languishing “friend request.”
Kassell and I are friends on Facebook and have met a couple of times over the years — and I’m friends in a Facebook sense with former House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-TX) who has been leading a battle partly through Facebook to advocate that Arizona Congressman Jeff Flake (R-AZ) get a seat on the House Appropriations Committee.
I joined the Flake effort as a group in Facebook in part because I think that the charismatic Republican Congressman really understands modern foreign policy and has a vision of US-Cuba relations that is tough-minded and would move us beyond the idiocy of the Cold-War rut we are in with Havana at the moment. And unlike many of our presidential candidates on both sides of the aisle, Jeff Flake realizes that Cuba is just a proving ground on which to demonstrate a more enlightened and sensible foreign policy with the world at large.
I also did what may be one of the first Facebook interviews over Facebook with writer and political correspondent for Spain’s El Mundo, Pablo Pardo. I’ll post the piece here (pdf with graphic) — but it’s in Spanish.
And as Noam Cohen writes in the New York Times today, microjournalism through Facebook is emerging as a significant new trend:
“NASHUA: Just saw Bill O’reily misbehaving at Obama rallly. Shoving Obama staffer.”
With these sloppily spelled words, sent Jan. 5 by text message by John Dickerson, chief political correspondent for the online magazine Slate, did microjournalism come of age.
The encounter between Mr. O’Reilly, the Fox News host, and the campaign aide did become actual news, kind of, for a day (a brief item ran in The New York Times, for example). But it first emerged from a high school gym in New Hampshire via Mr. Dickerson’s BlackBerry.
He uses Twitter — one of a number of so-called microblogging services — to distribute his text-message reporting to his Facebook friends, as well as his readers at Slate, which reprints recent Twitter items alongside his longer-form writing.
Microjournalism is the latest step in the evolution of Mr. Dickerson, who worked for years at Time magazine, and has moved from print to online articles to blog entries to text messages no longer than 140 characters, or about two sentences. “One of the things we are supposed to do as journalists is take people where they can’t go,” he said in an interview. “It is much more authentic, because it really is from inside the room.”
Although I cleaned up John Dickerson’s grammatical slips, The Washington Note (I think) was the first to grab Dickerson’s Facebook twitter and throw it up (with Dickerson’s permission) for broader consumption on the web. A bit later, Lynn Sweet got a piece out on Bill O’Reilly’s shove — and John Dickerson himself did as well.
I’m still figuring out Facebook, which while easy to navigate is very full of folks trying to have fun as well as to digest indirectly what their “virtual friends” are up to. I have signed on to some of the less serious applications because I was afraid of irritating some real friends who want me to be part of their video game fetishes. . .but I’m on Facebook for serious stuff mostly — reading John Dickerson’s twitters, including one about him enjoying throwing apple slices into the fire after Christmas with his kids.
OK — it’s not all serious. But it is part of the emerging new media.
— Steve Clemons
Update: After this post, Wesley Clark just added me as a friend on Facebook — and surged from 4,299 friends to 5,000 friends in the last hour. Wow, — Steve Clemons