April 11, 2007 by Colin
How should a national television reporter evaluate his participation in Facebook and its many affinity groups? David Akin of CTV pulls back the curtain and reveals how Facebook plays into his reporting on the activities of Canada’s national politicians:
“….So, for example, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has a Facebook account and, when I signed up, I sent him a note through the service asking to be his FF. It took a while but eventually he (or, most likely, the staff member at the PMO who monitors these things on behalf of the PM) agreed to be my FF. So what does that mean? Well, it certainly doesn’t mean that Stephen Harper and I are friends in the offline sense of the word. We don’t go to the mall together. We don’t phone each other up late at night to kvetch about our wives. We don’t borrow each other’s gardening implements.
What it does mean, though, is that I can “see” Stephen Harper’s Facebook profile and I will be notified on my own Facebook feed about activities he’s involved in. So, if Harper puts up a new photo of himself, I will see that he has done that back on my own Facebook page and, if I’m so inclined, it represents a cue for me to visit his page and check out his photo. Conversely when I do something on Facebook — I change my Facebook status several times a day, for example — Harper will be tipped to that fact back on his page.
Importantly, Harper and I know each other. We have an offline relationship. I’m a reporter; he’s the Prime Minister. You get the point.
Akin discusses several other important aspects of his participation on Facebook: how is his membership in any number of local or regional candidate support groups perceived, and how could his membership affect the actions of that Facebook group?
“…For me, a political reporter, this seems like a great place to connect with the so-called grassroots of any one political movement. And so I’ve joined the Liberal group and the Conservative group and so on. Again, I hope that most Facebook types will be sophisticated enough to figure out that I join these groups not to endorse them or to help them achive their political ends but to — and let’s be frank here — to spy on them! The more extra stuff I can learn about the activities of Liberals and Conservatives and NDPers, the better a reporter I can be.
Still, Akin decided to leave a lot of these types of groups a week ago – out of concern that “because the group is so overtly political, the benefit[s] of remaining a group member are not greater than the risks of me being perceived as endorsing any one candidate.”
[tags] Facebook. political reporter [/tags]