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Social networks ease reporting

By Billy O'Keefe

TRACY CHAN / The Working Press
The way journalists relate to sources and readers is changing because of social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook, said Nick Hoover, a technology writer for InformationWeek magazine.
It is a sign of the times, Hoover said Thursday at his talk “Instant Gratification: Redefining Journalism in the Technology Age,” that bloggers for The Washington Post, The Atlantic and other news organizations are reporting from their cell phones, trading full-length narratives for minute-by-minute news coverage. These short briefs, in addition to the proven popularity of photo galleries and other multimedia, are being taken seriously in the news industry because “they present the story in a different way that people can see, touch and relate to better,” Hoover said.
Social networks have changed the way journalists approach sources for information, Hoover said. Reporting is no longer the formal phone call it once was.
“You have to know people are who they say they are, but … sources are more willing to talk to me on social networks,” he said. “It may be the freshness of the medium that blurs the line between work and friends. ”
Hoover related how he found information for several of his stories by finding a Facebook group dedicated to the topic and posting an open message, then following up with people from the group who wrote back to him.
“As long as the source is verified, there’s nothing wrong with that form of participation,” he said, although he believes the ethics of accurately reporting and checking the facts are still the same.
Hoover added that when people comment on news stories posted online, it gives the stories new life.
“The internet is about translating stagnant stories … into dialogue,” he said.