Journ Classroom

March 17, 2009

Journalists on Facebook

Filed under: Journalism ethics — Luz Rimban @ 8:33 am
Tags: , ,

Filipinos are so addicted to social networking our country has been called the “Friendster capital of the world” orfacebook1 the “social networking capital of the world.”

In its Power to the People Wave 3 Report, Universal McCann found that of all countries in the world, the Philippines has the most number of Internet users belonging to a social network, whether Friendster, Multiply, Facebook or what have you. The top five countries are: the Philippines (83.1%), Hungary (79.9%), Poland (76.8%), Mexico (76.3%), and Brazil (75.6%).

Journalists figure prominently among social networkers. They attract many friends and contacts on these sites. But an article in the Society of Professional Journalists’ website raises the question: Should journalists connect with sources on Facebook, or other social networking sites? Should they be friends, even on a virtual level, with people they cover?

Here’s the article  “Facebook blurs the lines of friendship” by Andy Schotz in the SPJ site.

I’m stuck on the word “friend.” Friends get together to see movies, talk about their families, maybe swap secrets.

The people we cover should not be our friends. If they are, we shouldn’t cover them.

Sixteen years ago, my closest friend, Melissa Hale-Spencer, with whom I worked at a weekly newspaper in upstate New York, wrote a piece that stuck with me.

She was covering the startling bankruptcy of a popular auctioneer whose downfall was vigorously, blindly denied by his many supporters — people who were snookered and lost a lot of money through him.

Melissa had written a profile of the auctioneer and had been to his auctions. It was a grim, difficult demise for her to document.

When she said hello in a court hallway, the defiant auctioneer wouldn’t respond. “You aren’t anybody’s friend,” he told her.

She agreed, and later expanded on her role in a prize-winning column. (Read the full SPJ article.)

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