Getting Started with Facebook for Journalists

Tutorial: Getting Started with Facebook for Journalists


If Facebook were a country, it would be the eighth most populous country in the world. Only this country is like nothing you’ve ever experienced.

When visiting a foreign country it’s always best to prepare and have a basic understanding of how to get along. Studying the social norms, laws and rules is prudent.

One of the most important issues for journalists to resolve is how much personal and professional information is public. In addition to normal concerns of privacy and the real danger of identity theft, journalists are pulled by the desire for transparency in what we do and the need to protect sources and to protect the privacy of our family and friends.

Jumping head first into Facebook without considering the implications of how you setup your account can result in unwanted exposure of your personal information. This tutorial takes you though the setup process and shows you how to setup your account for maximum sensible privacy.

After you’ve mastered the basics and feel comfortable with your understanding of the many Facebook settings you can gradually peel off levels of privacy to reveal the information that you choose.

This tutorial is designed to give journalists a basic understanding of Facebook setup and privacy issues.

Getting Your account

Facebooks accounts are free and registration is easy.

Go to

Facebook Home Page

If you already have an account, sign in with your user name and password.

If you do not have an account fill in the required information and clik the Sign Up button.

facebook signup

Complete the Captcha challenge to prove you’re not a robot.

captcha challenge

After you complete the Captcha Security Check you will get a registration email. This email ensures that the email you used to register is valid.

registration email

Click the link to finalize your Facebook account.

facebook account confirmed

Congratulations! Welcome to Facebook.

Your Initial Privacy Settings

This step will guide you through setting the recommended initial privacy settings for your account. You will likely change these restrictive settings as you better understand how Facebook works and as you better understand how you want to use Facebook as a reporter.

facebook find friends

One of the essential elements of Facebook is adding friends. Friends can see a great deal of information about you. As a working reporter you will certainly have many Facebook friends. There are important ways to limit the information various types of friends can see.  Until you understand your options, click Skip this step.

facebook profile information

Your profile information reveals information to the general public. For now, click Skip.

Facebook Profile Picture

Click Skip. You will ad a profile picture in a following section.

After you click Skip, you will go to your personal Facebook Homepage.

facebook personal homepage

Until you add friends and information there isn’t much going on. In Facebook all the content is generated by you and by your friends…and advertisers, of course.

The next step is to start adding information to your account.

Adding Profile Information

Your Facebook profile serves two main purposes. First it enables other Facebook users to find you. Your high school friends can find you if you enter your high school and graduating year. This may or may not be a good thing.

The second main purpose of your profile is to keep your friends informed about your activities. In addition to your basic information, your profile is where you publish information about yourself.

An easy first step in setting up your profile is to add a picture of yourself.

add profile picture

Click the Upload a Picture option to upload a picture from your computer or click the Take a Picture option to use a camera connected to your computer to take a picture.

profile picture uploaded

After you add the profile picture, click Edit Information. This will bring up four categories of information: Basic Information; Personal Information; Contact Information; and Education and Work.

Edit each of these information categories. The following images show the information that I suggest you share to begin using Facebook. Of course you can add or remove information at any time.

Basic information.

facebook basic information recommendation

Personal Information is the next category. There is little risk in letting your friends and readers know what about your favorite TV show or book. Add information that you are comfortable sharing. You are not obligated to enter any information.

facebook personal information sample

Here’s the Contact Information section. Seriously consider if you want to post detailed contact information about yourself online. If you have a different email you want to publish, or if you wish to remove your email from your Facebook profile, this is the place.

facebook contact information

The Education and Work section offers some benefits as well as exposure. For example, by specifying that I work at the University of California I will be able to join the UC Facebook Network. This may make it easier to find and contact individuals about stories related to the UC system. The exposure of education information may make it easier to find sensitive identity information through other sources.

facebook education and work

How do you decide what to post? You want some people to see a lot of information, but most people to see a small subset of information about you.  It’s time to talk about Facebook Friends and Friends Lists.

Facebook Friends

Are friends people who share a brew? a movie? a kiss? a class? a cubicle? an email? a city? a college? an interest? mom? dad? sis? In the world of Facebook, who is a friend is up to you. More friends mean more connections and more nuggets of information. More friends also means more time consumed and more interactions. Finding a balance that works for you is an ongoing task.

To get started invite a couple of real friends or colleagues to be friends on Facebook. I suggest inviting someone you know who is pretty savvy about Facebook…ask the intern in your newsroom.

Facebook Home

Go to the Facebook homepage and click the Find people you know link. Search for a person you know is on Facebook.

search for a friend

When you find the person, click the Add as Friend link.

send friend invite

Add a personal message and click the Send Request button. An email is sent to your friend’s email with a link to your profile picture and an option to accept your invitation.

Once you have profile information and a couple friends Facebook becomes more interesting.

Here’s the “no friends” homepage.

Facebook no friends homepage

With just two friends (and some identifying profile information) the home page is much more interesting.

facebook active homepage

In addition to seeing activity from Jeremy, Facebook also suggests new friends based on the profile information I entered and interests and networks I share with my friends. As you add more friends and activities, Facebook will continually expand the scope of people recommended as friends.

Friend Lists

Adding friends on Facebook is easy. Just find people and send a request. You can also upload a contact file so you can invite friends “in bulk.” Facebook will also—with your permission and your email password—search your email account to see who you email and enable you to invite the people you email to become your Facebook friend. You can also send an email to friends who are not on Facebook inviting them to join Facebook so that they can be your Facebook friend. And just as it’s easy for you to invite people, people will start to invite you.

However, you’re not sure you want to share the same information about yourself with your co-workers as you do with your family members. And your co-workers probably aren’t as interested in the personal parts of your life as your family members. Casual acquaintances could be Facebook friends but you don’t want to share much with them…but you still want to keep tabs on them. And your readers will find you and invite you to be their Facebook friends. Chances are you don’t want them to have your home address.

Facebook Friend Lists are a way for you to control what information you share with custom lists of friends. You can create as many Facebook Friends Lists as you like. Friends can be on multiple lists. Each Facebook Friends lists can have custom privacy settings. This section shows how to create Facebook Friends Lists.

From your personal Facebook homepage click Friends in the blue menu bar at the top of the screen.

facebook homepage

facebook friends

Here’s the Facebook Friends page.  To create a custom list of your friends with custom privacy settings for each list, start by clicking + Create [under Lists in the left column].

create facebook friends list

Name the list and select the friends that will be in the list. Note that you need to click the picture or name to make a selection.

faceboook friends list example

You can also create Friends list with no one on the list. Use this to prepare for a category of friends that you haven’t yet started to gather…like Readers or Family.

facebook showing multiple friends lists

This image shows multiple lists. The next section will show how to use these lists to set custom privacy and information access settings.

Setting Privacy with Friends Lists

When you consider your privacy settings you need to consider how you, as a professional reporter, are going to use Facebook. Here are some journalist-related uses:

  • Promote your reporting and your news organization.
  • Engaging in a conversation with your readers.
  • Getting information and tips from your readers and the general public.
  • Soliciting user-generated content.

These uses are all pretty public. The idea that you can accomplish this by setting all your privacy options to the most restrictive setting just doesn’t make sense. So you need to think through your privacy settings and make informed choices.

Start by reviewing your Basic Information, Personal Information and Contact Information.

profile page information

In the above example the Basic Information does not present any real compromising information. Removing the birthday would be slightly more secure, but birthdays are part of the Facebook culture. The other Basic Information is fine for public view.

The Personal Information above is bland and harmless for public consumption. If your life is more exciting or you enter more risque or controversial personal information you can control who sees that information.

Your Contact Information really should only contain information that you want public. Family and “real” friends have other ways to get you home address, cell phone, Instant Message screen name and land line phone. One option is to use your news organization’s address and phone number. Note that you can also edit your email address to be your work email.

The best way to control your privacy on Facebook is to only put up information that you are comfortable having public.

basic profile settings for journalists

In the above image, Everyone can find and see my Basic Information and Personal Information. If you wish to have only your family see your personal information, create a Friends List that contains everyone except the family friends that you want to be able to see your Personal Information. [See the preceding page for instructions.]

customized personal information

In the above screen shot, Friends can see my Personal Information—unless the friends are part of the “Everyone except Family” Friends List. This exception means that the only friends that can see my Personal Information are the family “friends” that I did not include as members of the “Everyone except Family” Friends List. You can also make lists for “Everyone except close friends,” “Everyone except colleagues,” and any other collection of friends that you want to grant or deny specific access.

Photos are a real privacy concern. Photos can show your family to the public. Photos can show your car and your house (and frequently your street address). People who pose with you may not realize that, as a journalist, you are a public figure and that by posing with you their relationship with you may become more publicized than they wish. Photos in which you are identified by name are “Tagged.” In the previous image of Basic Privacy Settings I have set Tagged Photos to be only visible to members of my Family Friends List. I use the same setting for videos.

Friends are sources of information. As a reporter you often talk to a subject’s friends for more information. Making your friends visible makes them access points for information about you that you may not want generally available. In the privacy setting example above, I’ve excluded everyone except family from seeing my Facebook friends.

Your needs may vary and you may choose other privacy combinations. Through the use of Facebook Friends Lists you can, with some work and creativity, restrict the information you share with different categories of friends.

Facebook Search

Search is s common way to find people on Facebook. You can set what someone sees when your profile is found via search.

facebook search setting

In the above example, everyone on Facebook can find me via search and the search results will display my profile picture, a link to send a message, and a link to add me as a friend. In the above example the search results will not display my friend list.

In addition, Facebook will create a public search listing and submit that information to search engines. This will enable people searching on the web to find my Facebook profile.

As a journalist promoting your news organization and your own brand, the more ways that people can find you—and the more locations you promote yourself—the more effective your promotional campaign.

The Wall and News Feed

The Wall in Facebook is where you publish content. This content can be a standard text post or it can be a photo, video or a link to other content on the Internet.

The Wall is also the place where your Facebook friends can post messages and other content for you and your friends to read, view or watch.

facebook wall sample

In the above example, Scot posted a message about this tutorial and Jeremy posted a message and a link to the Berkeley Advanced Media Institute home page.

The Wall in Facebook is the primary place you will interact with your Facebook Friends.

The News Feed on the Facebook homepage publishes a stream of news about you and your friends.

facebook news feed sample

The above example shows News Feed items posted by my Facebook friends. These are “news” items that these friends published on their own Facebook Wall pages. Facebook automatically publishes these news items to the News Feed of all their friends. These are news items about friends that are not directed at any specific person. These are items that friends publish on their Wall that go out to all of their friends.

You can also filter your news feeds by Facebook Friends Lists. Clicking one of the lists in the left column will just show you the news from from friends who are on that list.

Wall and News Feed Privacy Settings

You have control of what goes out to your Facebook friends as a news item originated by you.

facebook wall and news feed privacy setting

The above Wall and News Feed privacy settings shows what will appear by your choice on your Wall and in your News Feed that goes out to your friends. These setting are for “news” originated by you and actions that you take.

Note on the right side in the Wall and News Feed privacy settings is a list of actions that are never part of your News Feed and will never appear on your Wall.

Face Ads Privacy Setting

Facebook would like your help to sell products and services to your friends. Recommendations that come from someone you know are more interesting and more effective than almost any other type of advertising.

You provide Facebook with information about yourself, your activities, your networks. Facebook can match these up with products and services that you use and transform  this information into an ad campaign targeted specifically at your friends.

facebook ad privacy

Here’s a more readable image about Facebook ads.

facebook ad policy

Needless to say that as a journalist you want no part in Facebook’s advertising program. Below is the recommended setting.

facebook ad recommended setting

Facebook Applicatons

What are Facebook applications?

Probably the biggest privacy hole in Facebook is applications.  On July 29, 2009 Sarah Perez published, “Does that Facebook App Have a Privacy Policy? Probably Not.” on the blog.

In this post Perez reports on research done by “theharmonyguy” on the blog Social Hacking. In that research of the top 25 Facebook applications, “36% of these top apps had no published privacy policy whatsoever or only offered a link to it.”

Perez continues:

“Each of the top 25 applications on Facebook have at least 5.5 million monthly active users and 12 of these apps are labeled as “Facebook Verified,” a designation which essentially means they have been given the Facebook seal of approval when it comes to their trustworthiness.”

Applications, through the Facebook API, have access to all of the information that you enter on Facebook. Applications are suppose to respect your privacy setting. Even those that do not violate Facebook’s privacy policy can access and distribute information that you thought was private.

Facebook explains application privacy.

facebook application privacy settings 1

This means that an application that is authorizes by you or your friends can access your public information. For most users, especially journalists trying to attract users to content, this is generally not a problem. The next point is a potential problem.

facebook application privacy point 2

This means that if you have your privacy settings set to only allow family to see your photos but authorize an application for photo sharing that needs access to your photos to work, you implicitly grant that application access to your photos. Because applications have poor privacy policies and a great deal of access to your information, thoroughly research an application before you authorize the application.

The following settings are for information about you that can be accessed by applications that your friends authorize.

facebook application privacy setting recommendation

The best recommendation for using Facebook applications is to research the application thoroughly and use only applications that your really need for your publishing and promotion.

Facebook Connect

Facebook verifies your identity when you register by sending you a confirming email. You can supply a fictitious name with an email account (as I did by giving my cat Kali her own Facebook account). Once you establish your Facebook identity, all Facebook native services are available to you when you are on Facebook.

Facebook Connect enables you to “connect” your Facebook identity, friends and privacy to any website that supports Facebook Connect.

What does this really mean?

First, it means that developers outside of Facebook can use the Facebook Authentication to implement social networks on their sites without coding a new social networking authentication system. You can participate in this new not-at-Facebook social network without setting up a new account and providing more personal information about yourself at another web site. You use your Facebook identity. The developer uses the Facebook Connect code to authenticate that you are a real person—at least that you have a real Facebook identity.

It also means that you can easily share information on these third-party social networks with your Facebook friends. Your friends will see which third-party sites you join and you will see which friends are on the third-party site.

You have the option, recommended, to not allow friends to view your membership on other sites through Facebook Connect.

facebook connect setting

Above is the recommended setting for allowing your Facebook friends to see sites you join using your Facebook identify. Note this also blocks the sites you join from spamming your friends with invitations to join you on the third-party site.

Facebook Beacon

Facebook created a major controversy concerning Beacon. Beacon broadcasts what you buy, what you review and other actions that you take on participating third-party sites to all your friends.

Facebook has scaled back on the original program. The program, although now more controlled by the user, is still a form of affinity marketing. This is obviously not a role for a journalist.

Below is the recommended setting for Beacon.

facebook beacon setting

About this Tutorial

This tutorial was written and is maintained by Jerry Monti, Technology Trainer at the Knight Digital Media Center at UC Berkeley. Please email corrections, comments and resource links to

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