One of the things I love the most about my job is the fact that everyday I do something new. I learn something, I meet someone interesting or I get to be a part of something I’ve never done before. Case in point, a story I did a few weeks ago on Quidditch. Never heard of it? Neither had I.
Unless you’re a Harry Potter fan, you are probably as in the dark as I was about the game. So when I was looking for a story idea one day, and a strange press release comes across my desk about a local university playing in the Quidditch World Cup, I was more than interested.
I watched a few Harry Potter trailers and soon figured it out; it’s a game from the movies. But unlike the movie, students at Transylvania University don’t fly on brooms, instead they run with them between their legs. I’m not joking. It was such a fun story to cover, and the students at Transy were a blast to work with. But I digress…
The press release I got on the Quidditch story was interesting enough in itself. You didn’t have to do much reaching to see it had several of the major news elements that would make it a good story. I also didn’t have to dig to find the contact number of the public relations person on the press release. I contacted her, she was very helpful, but she was also a bit uncertain as to how she was going to get together an entire Quidditch team of college students in the middle of the day to meet a news crew in a matter of an hour. She warned me, “most of them are in class, so we might have to push it until tomorrow.” I told her I understood, but I also knew if that was the case, the next day I would be assigned to a story about some crazy guy eating his own beard, or something like that.
My first step was, obviously, to Google the subject. I watched more Harry Potter trailers, somehow got distracted and landed on a Twilight trailers (hmmm wonder how that happened?) and with no magic link to the Transylvania University Quidditch team roster with names and phone numbers, I went to the book. Facebook.
Now using Facebook for gathering news information is not a new thing. We use it at LEX-18 every day. But there are a few things you might not know about FB, and some useful tools you can really add to your journalist toolbox.
I searched Quidditch on Facebook. Harry Potter groups and Quidditch groups across the country popped up. I narrowed my search a bit, then found the Transylvania University Quidditch team. Bingo! I sent messages to all the players on their roster, and within minutes I had Facebook messages from several students. Sidebar: I still hadn’t heard back from the PR person.
An important thing to note here, I’m not by any means saying the PR person was bad at her job. She was wonderful and very helpful once she got ahold of the students. The problem is, students (and most people) check their Facebook more often than their voicemails, text messages and emails.
Within an hour and a half, I had a Quidditch team in front of me practicing. Bingo. Or as they say in Quidditch, “Bludger!”
Another little piece of Facebook I love, the status update. Now I know most people have privacy settings that keep you from seeing what they’re up to if you’re not friends with them or in their network. But there’s a little website (not affiliated with Facebook) called www.youropenbook.org.
It’s a fantastic website to search if you are looking for buzz about a specific person. For example: A teenager dies in a car crash. You need to get in touch with his family members. They’re unlisted and no one knows where they live. Search the victim’s name on Your Open Book. More often than not, you’ll find status updates saying things about your victim. “RIP so and so, etc.” Message the people who have updated their status with your victim’s name, and ask for their help on a story. It’s worked for me countless times. It’s also a great way to find pictures of people!
An incredible invasion of privacy that will inevitably freak you out. But we journalists love those with no boundaries or privacy issues, don’t we?
On that note, Facebook me! I promise not to put you on limited profile.
Nikki is the weekend anchor and general assignment reporter for LEX-18 in Lexington, KY. She also writes a blog for RTDNA. Follow her on Twitter here.