Friending Sources on Facebook

I believe that friending sources on Facebook makes it easier to connect with them for a story, but you also have to make sure it’s the actual person you’re looking for first and not a bot/fake profile.

In today’s generation, no one is quick to answer a phone call or an email to get back to you on a story. This even relates to the Tangerine in some ways, because I have emailed several athletes for a story and when only one or two people get back to me, I have to email more and no one is in a hurry to get back to you. Sometimes in that case, I look under my friends list on Facebook to see who goes to UC and who is an athlete who will relate to the story I’m working on and I find that it’s much quicker that way than waiting days for someone to reply to your email. But then just messaging friends as sources creates a conflict of interest because you know them and from this, it limits your connections to only a few people. However, I would think that contacting your friends would also help in the means of them connecting you with more people to talk to besides them.

Going back to the whole double checking to make sure the person you’re looking to talk to is a real person, Ari Shapiro, a justice correspondent for National Public Radio (NPR) said that if the person you’re looking for or even someone who friends you personally has a photo that is of a logo or a photograph of a politician, they may not be credible to talk to or even add as a friend in that matter. I agree with Shapiro’s statement and when adding friends on Facebook, I always look at their profile very closely to see their photos and to see how many mutual friends we have together.

Also, while being friends with someone who is a public figure or of higher authority, you have to be careful about what you post. Sacramento Bee columnist Stuart Leavenworth said in regards to the Secretary of State of California sending him a friend request, “But I also just felt strange about them having so much access to my personal information, since I like to have fun on Facebook. I like to post goofy photos and post goofy messages, and I’m not sure I want the secretary of state and the assembly speaker and others to be viewing those on a daily basis.”

If I were in the situation as a professional journalist, I would have my own verified Facebook page and allow potential sources to message me and if so, I would do a valid background check on them before interviewing them or would only use them on background and find a valid source to confirm that information.

As a UC journalism student, how do you go about finding sources for assignments? Do you email the person or do you call them first? After discussing social media and friending sources, would you message the source- why or why not?

Nicole, how do you go about contacting your sources if you cannot reach them via email or phone?


Source: Mendoza, Steven. “To Friend or Not to Friend? ” American Journalism Review,




Published by

Morgan Golliver

Senior at Utica College

3 thoughts on “Friending Sources on Facebook”

  1. Morgan, another great example of immersing yourself in the situation! As a student it’s a much different world from real life. But that having difficulty in reaching out to sources and having them get back to you in a timely manner is Not going to get any easier. Welcome to real life! People don’t understand deadlines which is why in your professional life, it’s very important to make those clear to your sources. If you’ve got an hour to write a story then you give them no more than half an hour to get back to you. And trust me that is no guarantee either. Strong reporting skills rely on utilizing several different sources and means of getting the information you need, stat! You make a good point about the “balancing act,” utilizing friends but that shrinking your pool of sources and yes, then you run into the dangers of bias. Yet friends of friends may be able to provide additional sources. You never know, which is why you always need to have that utility belt. I’m old school and prefer to call sources first. But I admit if I’m working on 3-4 different stories it’s a lot easier shooting off an email and waiting to hear back from them as I’m working on something else. However, if I don’t hear from them by a certain time I do follow up with a call. You can message a source. I mentioned an example in Jacqui’s post so go check it out. I’ve also had to write stories about homicide and accident victims and had to reach out to family members by using messenger, especially if a special Facebook page has been created, say in memory of someone. BUT, that said, I ALWAYS ask permission before I use any statement or photo. I will always say in messenger, hello, my name is Nicole Hawley with the Rome Sentinel and I’m writing….Please contact me as soon as possible at …. Even if it’s for something “fluffy” I ask first. For example, for our new weekly, the Clinton Record, I’ve reached out several times to certain organizations to provide us with information but they don’t bite. Yet, they’ll publish something on their Facebook page. We’ve seen this and I’ve had to make calls and ask permission to use the material. A recent example of this was a pic posted for new volunteer recruits for Westmoreland Fire Department. I had to reach out to the chief, but he was more than willing to give me permission to use the photo and he also gave me the names and said he would provide another photo if for some reason I had difficulty getting it off Facebook or the file was too small.

    I love seeing that you guys are able to relate to the material by putting yourself into it. It gives a whole new perspective on how this will all play a role in your professional lives one day. Stellar work!


    1. As you said it never gets easier, but the constant having to get sources for almost every assignment in journalism classes makes me regret signing up for this major to be honest with you because no one wants to get back to you. I get so irritated with it that even my career plans have changed. As much as I sometimes enjoy my job as sports editor for the Tangerine, I don’t want to be a journalist or a reporter because I don’t want to go through these situations again or constantly because if I don’t find anyone, the blame is on me because I don’t have an assignment for class or a story for the tangerine. I know even as I want to pursue a career as a sports information director and eventually an athletic director, I will still experience times where people don’t get back to me, but I would still be able to do other things without having to have a source and could wait or follow up with that person at a later time. Also, with no one getting back to you, it makes you lose trust in people in general.


  2. Morgan don’t give up. It sounds like I need to pass on the paper bag that I needed to breathe into earlier in the week, and still…Trust is a difficult thing, but you’re looking at it all wrong. Your job is to build a relationship with your sources and that trust relationship will naturally build itself. If you’re calling or Facebook messenging sources and they won’t get back to you, then that tells you that maybe that method of news gathering isn’t working. Sports is your life, right? So make it. If this what you truly want then you need to get out there to those games and you need to talk with those athletes face-to-face, whether you grab them on the sideline or just before they walk into the locker room. Or you wait outside that locker room until they get out. You go to that coach in his or her office or call them and say I’m Morgan Golliver, sports editor for the Tangerine, I’m writing this and I’m going to need that. And now I’m going to turn this into a lesson for both of us. Last Friday before vacation I met with my therapist and I pointed out my frustration and stress over some of you guys not being able to meet deadlines. I asked how do I get it across to my students that deadlines are going to be their way of life, whether they become journalists or not, and that giving you say a day to turn in your blog, when you know or at least it’s your responsibility to know that your deadline is noon the Monday prior to class, I’m not doing you any favors. Because in the real world, if you don’t develop these habits, honestly put, you’re not going to have a job. How do I get my students to see that there are good, real-life reasons why I give you deadlines and expect you to adhere to them as much as I want all of you to be successful? So I worked on ways to be more assertive. So that said, I want you to do the same. Go out there and make those connections and don’t tell the player, tell the coaches, “This is my deadline. I need this by then…Please give me a cell phone number where I can reach you.” If you need something in ten minutes then tell them that’s when they need to get back to you. If they don’t, then you call them in 10 minutes on the nose and you keep contacting them until you get what you need. Yes that is a lot of work – at first. But once you build those relationships and you’re demanding that respect for yourself, then you will be taken seriously and that “trust” relationship will be established. It may not always be the case, but for the most part, they should then be coming to you. That’s when you get that, “Hey Morgan, I’ve got those scores for you,” or “Hey Morgan, I’ve got a story for you if you’re interested…”


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