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facebook - Should you 'friend' a person you cover?

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by wisportswriter, Jun 15, 2009.

  1. My gut reaction is that you shouldn't, that it's crossing the safe boundaries of the reporter-subject relationship.

    OTOH, people (amazingly) spill out so much of their lives on the freaking interwebs these days, I could see it was a useful way to keep your ears to the 21st-century train tracks.
  2. Moderator1

    Moderator1 Moderator Staff Member

    No harm in it that I see - as long as you maintain professionalism in your interaction.

    I was amazed during my brief run in media relations how many media members used Facebook to try and set up interviews. I told the kids it was totally their call on whether to "friend" or not, if they were being careful and smart with their pages it shouldn't matter. But we asked them to not agree to interviews requested that way, route 'em back through us.
  3. Moderator1

    Moderator1 Moderator Staff Member

    That said, I didn't "friend" any current VCU athlete when I worked there. Did not want to appear to be all "big brother looking over your shoulder" and all that. If I was alerted to a problem, I went and checked it out. Found one, notified coaching staff, problem fixed in minutes.
    Since I left, I've become "friends" with a number of the current athletes.

    With the recent coaching change in men's basketball at VCU, many of the players used their Facebook status to express their feelings. One player left, picked a new school and then returned. Several were very upset that Anthony Grant left. I'm told that one outlet around here - not my former paper - ran with a "news" story based on a status update. Except the news wasn't quite right.

    I've also told the story on here of my former paper running the wrong picture with a story on one of the Virginia Tech victims, thanks to Facebook.

    No matter what you do, ALWAYS be careful with Facebook. There's apparently a NASCAR driver with a very active page - except the driver doesn't run the page. And it is a personal page, not a fan page.
  4. cyclingwriter

    cyclingwriter Active Member

    I've been "friended" by a lot of the p.r. flacks, which is a good way to keep tabs on what they are doing. Some of the release info first on the FB page. I've actually gotten some stories from FB. However, I'm not sure about coaches and players. Seems to Fanboyish.
  5. RickStain

    RickStain Well-Known Member

    I wouldn't use it for first contact when there's an official media relations staff to go through, but there's been a few times where I used it to find I just couldn't find any other way.
  6. Mizzougrad96

    Mizzougrad96 Active Member

    Absolutely you should.
  7. playthrough

    playthrough Moderator Staff Member

    The "friending" thing doesn't give me much pause anymore. It used to, but you see so many people with hundreds of friends now, it's pretty innocuous, IMO. Then again, I don't spill my guts there every day or have a terribly detailed personal info page or post pictures.

    I also don't searches of people I cover, looking to friend them. But if they come up through another friend or a comment or whatever, I'll more often than not hit the "add" button.
  8. Mizzougrad96

    Mizzougrad96 Active Member

    Athletes regularly announce trades, FA information, retirement etc... on their pages or Twitter so if they'll allow you to follow them, isn't it your duty to do so?
  9. mediaguy

    mediaguy Well-Known Member

    My paper hasn't set a policy on it, but I personally see no problem. The word "friend" is really the only aspect of it that should raise eyebrows -- to me, accepting someone's friend request is no different than giving them your cellphone number. You're saying it's okay for someone to be privy to a personal circle of sorts, but with most kids, they have hundreds of Facebook friends, so it's not exactly an elite club ...
  10. Writer33

    Writer33 Member

    I'm no longer in sports and now cover city, county government. The local mayors and county execs often post their daily schedules and information about meetings. Using Facebook has been helpful to me.
  11. 93Devil

    93Devil Well-Known Member

    Set up a second Facebook page for you the writer. You can have a personal Facebook page, but I would use the writer Facebook page to "friend" athletes.
  12. WS

    WS Member

    I might add an athlete that's already graduated if I thought he was a good person and am interested in following his career.
    The SIDs at the school I cover have friended every single athlete there. One of them found it's the easiest way to get in touch with them.
    I don't add current athletes and only one athlete has added me, but it's a guy that doesn't ever play and I've never talked to him.
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