Another Cog in the New Media: Facebook Reporting


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


9 comments on “Another Cog in the New Media: Facebook Reporting

  1. iPhone Application Development says:

    Another Cog in the New Media: Facebook Reporting: Very interesting post. I really enjoyed reading it.


  2. dinn says:

    My mom has the 8330, and I got the Facebook App for when I use her phone (just because I love BB’s and want one ASAP). And in no way is this app a replacement for the actual internet/computer version. It was wayyyy to simplified. I personally love the iPhone’s FaceBook app and it really works well. So hopefully RIM will grab some ideas from iPhone and make them their own, and create an AMAZING FaceBook app that blows the iPhone’s out of the water.


  3. Heather Hamilton says:

    Interesting post, Steve. I recently was micro-blogging from the Iowa Caucuses on Twitter in response to a group I found on Facebook that was tracking caucus results through folks in the rooms. It was an interesting experiment. Here’s my blog on it:


  4. Steve Clemons says:

    Dear Plugugg — I can’t possibly imagine a face that wouldn’t look good on Facebook — but I’ll take you at your word. But could I recommend the picture of a pet — a dog, a cat, fish — or even a plant? All the best, Steve


  5. Plugugg says:

    I’m just way, way, not handsome enough to be on the Facebook, and would definitely have no friends. It is just another vehicle to breed the physically ugly out of the gene pool. I hardly see people anymore as ugly as me and will not be passing my tragically weirdo blunt object face on to future generations, although it likely will once again appear in siblings’ children to be only quickly snuffed out through the evolutionary process after much personal pain to the poor unfortunate. But that’s life and I can find ways to be happy without much human contact. Actually I’m pretty good at it, just as long as don’t have to show my pitiful goofball dumbell face.


  6. Sandy says:

    Hmm. If you say so. Sounds like another time sink to me. And, addictive. But then, I’m a geezer, and I probably need to get with it.


  7. Janet Kavinoky says:

    It seemed only appropriate to use my Facebook page as my URL. I wonder how Facebook – for those of us who are not in or immediately out of school – will evolve. Will we have multiple personalities – one for our personal friends, and one for other “friends” through work or causes? Will Facebook have a humanizing effect in the workplace by revealing our personal interests if we don’t have more than one page? Or will it blur the personal and professional lines too much to our detriment? Like you, Steve, I’m just figuring out Facebook, and am fascinated at its potential.


  8. Tim Cullen says:

    Great post. Question for you: which gloss of ‘micro’ is the more important aspect of microjournalism? Is it the technologically mandated 140 character limit on twitter messages? Or is it the fact that the technology has reduced the infrastructure requirements to broadcast quickly and widely?
    While I like the creativity the character limit (and some of the other technological limitations of these media) inspires–things like 140 character record reviews and recipes come to mind–I think those limits will eventually go away.
    I think the key (as with so many of the other changes wrought by the internet), is the empowerment angle. The smart, witty, and contextually valuable content creators will amplify in way that makes everyone better off.


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