Facebook for Journalists ONA SF Event

A brief overview of highlights from the ONA SF Meetup on January 18, 2011.


  1. The San Francisco Bay Area chapter of the Online News Association hosted a meetup on January 18 titled, Facebook Strategies for Online Journalists. The gathering was held at Facebook headquarters, and it gave Bay Area journalists the opportunity to learn about how news organizations and individual journalists are using Facebook as a vehicle for sourcing stories and engaging with their audience.

    And indeed, "engagement" was the word of the night, with each of the event's speakers--Justin Osofsky, director of media partnerships at Facebook; Andy Carvin, senior strategist for the social media desk at NPR; and Levi Sumagaysay, Good Morning Silicon Valley blogger/producer--emphasizing the strong connections that can be gained by interacting with fans through Facebook.

    Below are some highlights of the event, our own Twitter "heat map" if you will, of the ideas that seemed to resonate the most with the crowd, based on the frequency with which they appeared in tweets.

  2. Many of those in attendance at Tuesday's event indicated--by a show of hands--that the organization they work for already had a Facebook fan page. However, most of those assembled did not have a personal page that readers, viewers or listeners could follow. Facebook's Justin Osofsky encouraged journalists to create a "fan page" for themselves and mentioned Nicholas D. Kristof of The New York Times as an example of someone who makes good use of his personal page to connect with readers.
  3. NPR's Andy Carvin had similar suggestions for journalists, noting that NPR focuses on engaging the audience through Facebook rather than using the space merely to promote NPR's content. In fact, Carvin noted, Facebook has become a rich source for the news organization, allowing reporters to get in touch with people who have experience or expertise in a given area. Whenever NPR puts out the call to fans that they are looking for sources, the fans respond.
  4. So NPR's Facebook page has a lot of fan interaction. Those in attendance at the ONA meetup wondered, isn't that a lot of conversation to "police"? But Carvin noted that very little policing is needed.
  5. What's more, Carvin pointed out that turning to Facebook can help the organization reach people in areas where the organization might not have reporters stationed.
  6. He also noted that reporters work together with the social media desk to make the most of NPR's request for feedback from fans.
  7. Though Facebook drives plenty of traffic to NPR's site, Carvin's goal is bigger than page views and unique visitors. He explained that as someone who works for NPR, he strives to help create a more informed public. By using Facebook to connect with the organization's 1.4 million fans, NPR has been able to reach and include perspectives from a wider range of individuals than ever before.
  8. But while Carvin is clearly sold on the power of Facebook to reach and engage fans, some journalists expressed a certain degree of squeamishness about using the service to promote themselves and interact with an audience.
  9. Facebook has also had its share of controversies, many of which seem to crop up every time the platform makes changes to the site.

  10. I asked Saul Sugarman to follow up on his tweet, and he explained that he has not set up a fan page for himself because the idea of self-promotion is "a little unsettling." Further, he notes that for him, Facebook "is a friends-only method of staying in touch."
  11. We wonder: how do you use Facebook? Is the platform only a space to connect with friends and family, or have you begun to use it also to network or share your work? Let us know in the comments.
  12. And the conversation continues. The tweets below will take you to two other great write-ups of NPR and its Facebook success.