I didn’t realize it until a few weeks ago, but Facebook’s news feed turned journalism upside down.
What do you check first to find out what’s happening in your world? A news site or Facebook?
For centuries, journalists have asked questions and recorded names. But the limiting factor in all journalism is what people are willing to tell you. If you can’t get a source, you don’t have a story.
Facebook is better than the vast majority of journalists at getting people to share. It creates a community where you want to share things you’d normally only tell your friends, stuff you’d never give to a random person on the street. Through news feed, it’s essentially reporting on the community.
Bloggers talk frequently about hyperlocal journalism as the way of the future: journalism focused on the small stories that really matter to a group of people. It’s supposed to replace generic, mass-appeal journalism. Sites like Chicago Crime and Backfence show what’s happening in your neighborhood.
But Facebook is the most targeted, hyperlocal journalism of all. You not only know what’s happening in your dorm, you know what’s happening in every room.
And as addictive as it is, it already suggests the limits of hyperlocal news. When news is defined by what’s happening to the people around you, it becomes a celebration of what you already know and do and live. We need that comfort. But we also need to be challenged to do things differently, to re-examine how we live and why.
Facebook will show you which of your friends is going to that latest Darfur event. But it won’t help you understand why that matters.