How Journalists Use Facebook to Find Sources and Promote Stories

An Easy Way to Spread the Word About Stories Published Online

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When Lisa Eckelbecker first signed up for Facebook she wasn't sure what to make of it. But as a reporter for the Worcester Telegram & Gazette newspaper, she soon started getting friend requests from readers and people she had interviewed for stories.

"I realized that I was facing a dilemma," she said. "I could use Facebook to communicate with and listen to my immediate family and close friends, or I could use it as a business tool to share my work, build contacts and listen to lots of different people."

Eckelbecker chose the latter option.

"I have started posting my stories to my news feed, and it's been gratifying to see people occasionally comment on them," she said.

Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites have gotten a reputation as places where users routinely post the most mundane details of their daily lives to their closest friends. But professional, citizen and student journalists use Facebook and similar sites to help them find sources for stories, then spread the word to readers once those stories are published online. Such sites are part of an expanding array of tools that reporters are using to promote themselves and their work on the web.

How Some Journalists Use Facebook

When she was writing about Baltimore restaurants for, Dara Bunjon she started posting links to her blog posts on her Facebook account.

“I regularly use Facebook to promote my column,” Bunjon said. “If a story has relevancy to a Facebook group I will post links there. All this has driven my hits upward and grown the number of people who are following what I write.”

Judith Spitzer has used Facebook as a networking tool to find sources for stories while working as a freelance reporter.

“I use Facebook and LinkedIn to network with friends and friends of friends when I'm looking for a source, which is huge because there's already a trust factor when they know someone,” Spitzer said.

Mandy Jenkins, who has spent years in roles focused on social media and digital publishing for journalism outlets, said Facebook is “extremely valuable to connect with professional sources and other journalists as friends. If you monitor the news feeds of those you cover, you can find out so much about what's going on with them. See what pages and groups they join, who they interact with and what they say.”

Jenkins suggested that reporters join the Facebook groups and fan pages of organizations that they cover. “Some groups send out a lot of insider info on these group lists without even noticing who is on them,” she said. “Not only that but with Facebook's openness, you can see who else is in the group and contact them for a quote when you need it.”

And for interactive stories where a reporter might need to gather readers' videos or photos, “Facebook's page tools have a lot to offer in terms of social media presentation and crowdsourcing,” she adds.