Faceless on Facebook

Journalists should embrace new media, even if the future of their profession is still uncertain.

Using Facebook on the Internet 370 (R) (photo credit: reuters)
Using Facebook on the Internet 370 (R)
(photo credit: reuters)
It was the taunting verse of Joni Mitchell’s 1970s song Big Yellow Taxi, – “Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you got ’til it’s gone; They paved paradise and put up a parking lot” – that kept running through my brain last month as I tried for four days straight to access my Facebook account.
Despite following the pithy advice on the site about how to re-set passwords, track down old email addresses and pass security tests, in the end all I could do was panic that I might never see the inside of my Facebook page again.
In retrospect, the fact I was so unnerved by the concept that I might have to rebuild my Facebook “family” from scratch, track down all my old friends and professional contacts (there are more than 1200 of them), or, worse, never be able to access the personal data stored on the social networking site again, is unsurprisingly just one of the sad realities of our lives today.
And, as I prepare to leave The Jerusalem Post – where I have worked for more than 13 years – and head into a new media world dominated by digital platforms and powerful social media influences like Facebook, I realize it is also one of the realities I now face in my professional life too.
After the experience of losing my Facebook account and less than a week after returning from the annual gathering of the Online News Association (ONA) in San Francisco, I feel more convinced than ever that the future for traditional print and legacy media is extremely grim, especially when it is up against the all-out power of digital news.
In the US, where media innovation, data journalism and social media reporting are all gaining prominence, even mainstream news outlets are putting all their remaining resources into virtual online news efforts, I learned at the ONA.
From e-reading platforms to news apps for smartphones, nothing is certain in today’s media world and, it seems, today’s journalist must focus more on finding new ways to tell stories, creating a personal media brand and literally selling our work and reputations on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin in an effort to reach as many people as possible across the globe.
Perhaps that is why being locked out of Facebook for the better part of a week seemed so daunting to me? Even before my foray with the world’s leading digital journalists, I understood that powerful force in my life and what it meant to be without it.
During the days when I could not access my account, I actually wondered about our lives before Facebook’s existence. How had I kept track of what my family and friends, especially those overseas, were doing on a daily basis?
How had I remembered people’s birthdays or kept track of special events without having them flashing before me automatically on Facebook? I pondered what had I done with my time before 2007, when I’d logged onto the social networking platform for the first time? Did I socialize more or less back then? Was my life any more or any less real? Had I been more or less productive than I am now?
More importantly, as a journalist, I wondered where I had gone to in order to find instantaneous news updates or to keep abreast of current affairs worldwide? There are so many news organizations and individuals putting out stories that Facebook really helps me filter through all the mounds of information now available.
While I am still not sure how to answer the questions about my time and my socializing habits, I do know that social media has changed my life as a journalist and news junkie for the better.
Sure, mistakes made by journalists these days are painfully much more obvious thanks to the internet and social media – which might be why getting paid for our work is harder than ever – but, on the other hand, the painstaking research that would once take reporters or editors days and sometimes weeks to complete can now be done in minutes. Not to mention how simple it is now to reach many thousands of people with just the flick of a switch.
After almost a whole week locked out of Facebook and experiencing that feeling of sheer joy when I finally accessed my page and all its data again, I will never again underestimate the power of the internet and social media platforms.
And, as I bid farewell to The Jerusalem Post, I feel ready to embrace the advice and lessons of my digital media friends at the ONA about the place of journalists in the new media landscape.