Five ways to crowdsource your reporting with Facebook

byMaite Fernandez
Sep 8, 2011 in Journalism Basics

With more than 750 million users worldwide, Facebook is a great source of collective knowledge.

Journalists increasingly use this tool through the creation of Facebook pages to engage their audience and allow them to participate in the news cycle.

And users respond. According to Facebook’s stats, the average user is connected to 80 community pages, groups and events.

Vadim Lavrusik, Journalist Program Manager for Facebook, recently published a post in the “Facebook + Journalists” guide detailing how news organizations are using this social medium to crowdsource stories.

Here are some of the examples from the guide along with others found by IJNet.

  • To find stories and personal testimonies. In the wake of the 10-year anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on New York City and Washington, the Associated Press used its Facebook page to ask readers for their personal stories. The news wire also told its audience that a reporter might contact people for verification purposes.

The Joplin Globe also asked its readers to share how their lives changed 100 days after the devastating tornado that hit Joplin, Missouri.

On a lighter note, The New York Times asked readers to share the best dishes they’ve made since Memorial Day. Readers were asked to submit their recipes, which might be published on the paper’s website.

  • To submit photos and videos. News organizations are turning more and more to their audience to ask for photos and video of breaking news events.

The Washington Post recently asked readers on its Facebook page to send photos that show how they’ve been affected by Sept. 11.

Another example is KMOV-TV8, which asked its audience to send photos and videos of the tornado damage through its Facebook page.

There’s also an application that makes it easy to publish crowd-sourced photo galleries, as explained in Facebook+Journalists. You can see how The New York Daily News is using the application created by Olapic here.

  • To find individual sources: Having a hard time finding sources for your latest assignment? You might find them through Facebook.

Reuters recently used its Facebook page to find a retail investor who had been through the “worst-case investing scenario” for a story.

The Star Tribune of Minneapolis, Minn., used its Facebook page to find people who suffer from summer allergies for a story on that topic.

  • To submit questions. You can ask your audience what questions they want answered from a source you’re going to interview. That’s what The Daily News of Greenville, Michigan, did. One of their reporters asked readers to submit questions for local police about how to protect themselves amid a spate of thefts.

  • To verify information. If you don’t know something, ask around. Chances are some of your readers might know the answer.

That’s what KSAX, a small TV station in Minnesota, did. On Facebook, it posted a photo of an unidentified animal that had been struck by a vehicle . The audience helped identify the road kill. For the record, it was a badger.

You can read the full post from the Facebook+Journalists guide here.