Dispatches from the living amongst journalism's walking dead

Month: November 2011

How to Maintain a Safe, Positive and Public Facebook Life

So you’ve turned on Facebook Subscribe. Now what? Here’s some suggestions from someone who’s been doing it awhile. What would you add? Leave suggestions in the comments.

Set up friends lists to help direct posts.

Click on ‘Friends’ on the left side of your profile. Here you can sort, search and assign friends into lists of your choosing. Take the time to create lists based on the sort of things you share. Maybe you have a list for family and friends to show off photos of your kids/pets/self. Maybe you have one just for coworkers or work-related purposes.

Be selective about who you share with.

You can direct individual status updates, photos, videos, notes and galleries to very granular groups (based on those friends lists you made). Your subscribers likely don’t care about your dinner plans with friends, so maybe those sort of updates should be directed to friends only. Also take the time consider the privacy of those you tag or feature in posts or images, they may not want to be exposed to your public audience.

Be smart.Don’t share where you live or details about your schedule on public posts. And ladies, consider what your public posts say to the sexual harassers, stalkers and all-around creeps who hang out on Facebook. I’ve encountered some real weirdos who’ll respond in an uncomfortable fashion to just about any post – I try not to encourage them.

Manage your comments.If you have comments turned on for subscribers, keep an eye on them. People will sometimes spam you, say horrible things or pop into a conversation thread like a bull in a china shop with a “So hottt. C me in Turkiye”. You need to delete stuff sometimes, your friends and subscribers are depending on you to keep the comments cleared. Do this by hovering over the right side of their comment until you see an X. Click to delete the comment.

Don’t be afraid to block people.

If someone is spamming you or being abusive to you or your commenters, don’t hesitate to block them from your page. Do this by first deleting the comment, then you’ll get an option to block the user.


What else would you add?

How To Set Up Facebook Subscribe For Journalists

When Facebook launched its Subscribe feature in mid-September, quite a few journalists sighed in relief. This, we thought, is what we needed: A way to communicate with a larger audience of readers while maintaining a somewhat private personal life behind a friend wall. I’m sure it’s a great option to other professionals, celebrities and wannabe celebrities as well.

I enabled subscriptions the day they launched, mostly to test it out. After all, who would be interested in reading the occasionally inane updates of a non-famous non-reporter? More than 9,000 subscribers later, I found out.

In the six weeks since, I’ve found some things I like and dislike about the feature. This ongoing experiment has helped me to formulate a few tips that may help anyone who wants to use this feature.

Getting It Set Up

1. Customize your profile information.

Your profile will be open to the public when you turn on Subscribe, so this is the place to lure people in (and possibly turn others away). Click on “Edit Profile” on the top right of your profile page. Use the ‘about me’ space to describe who you and and what you do.

For the sake of transparency, you should identify yourself as a journalist, including your job title (or description of what you do) and the name of your publication. I’d suggst you do this even if you don’t plan to use your profile for work.

This is also a good space to lay out what subscribers can expect from you. Do you frequently share links or start discussions on sports or politics? Say so. Will you talk about your personal life? What is your policy on friending?

I also use this are to put down a couple of ground rules, particularly “Don’t be a creep.” (More on that later)

2. Adjust the privacy settings on all aspects of your profile.

If you adjust nothing here, it could very well be visible to the entire Internet. You can adjust whether areas such as your location, connections, contact info and interests should be publicly visible or shown only to friends (or certain groups of friends).

Keep in mind, while you might consider your life to be an open book, your friends and family may not be as comfortable. Think about their privacy when adjusting the ‘Friends and Family’ settings and remember whoever finds you will be able to find them.

3. Decide what to do about those past posts.

In your privacy settings, there is an option to limit the visibility of past posts. If you have any doubt about the updates, photos and other stuff you’ve shared on Facebook in the past (including those crazy college photos), you might want to check this so new subscribers can’t dig back through your possibly sordid history.

You may also want to look at your photos page and set individually which past albums and images can be seen by the public.

4. Set how people can find and contact you.

If you want to be easily found on Facebook (and why would you turn on Subscribe if you didn’t?), you need to be sure you’ll come up in searches. In your privacy settings, select ‘How You Connect’. Here is where you can set how strangers will find and contact you. If you’re actively looking to reduce friend requests, you should limit those who can send them to at least ‘Friends of Friends’.

5. Turn on Subscribe.

Do this with the button on the top right of your profile page. This is also where you want to decide if those who subscribe to you can post comments on your posts. Your comment numbers will go up – and they will require work (see below), but consider this: Why would you read something you can’t comment on? Weigh this option carefully.

6. Take a look at how the public sees your page.

At the top right of your page, click “View As”. Click “public” to see what subscribers will see or check how certain friends see your page by entering their name.


More: Tips for maintaining a safe, positive and public Facebook life.

Citizen Journalism Is Booming In Egypt and The Middle East, Despite Serious Risks

(Eds note: This is also cross-posted at The Huffington Post)

“American? You are welcome here.”

I must have heard that three dozen times during my visit to Cairo, Egypt last week. Every Egyptian I met made it a point to let me know I was safe in their country.

Egypt is, after all, in something of a PR crisis following a revolution this past spring and regular demonstrations ever since. For a country that relies so heavily on tourism, foreigners’ continued fears are directly affecting many residents, from the guys hustling camel rides at Giza’s pyramids to the restaurants and hotels that are usually bustling with Western tourists.

Many people told me, “Go home, tell Americans it is safe here.”

So there you go. I can at least vouch for myself and say I never felt in danger (except for when I took Cairo cabs – talk about a rush!).

My tour guide lamented the notably smaller number of tour buses lined up in front of the Sphinx and Great Pyramids. She told me the numbers had been down all year, but she was really hoping they’d pick up in the fall, usually a very busy season.

Though tourism may be down, another industry (if you’d want to call it that) is thriving all over post-revolution Arab World: Citizen journalism.

Many online news outlets have launched or grown after the dust has started to settle following the Arab Spring. MediaShift describes the citizen journalism landscape as three-tiered: Independent bloggers; joint initiatives from citizen journalists; and larger citizen journalism platforms such as Global Voices and Menassat.com.

Citizen journalism has a long history in Egypt , in particular. Since the early 2000s, bloggers and activists were chronicling complaints and demonstrations against then-President Hosni Mubarak outside the purview of the mainstream media.

While the news availability may be spreading, there are still dire consequences for citizen journalists (and professional journalists) for writing negative posts about the wrong parties.

In March, Egyptian blogger Maikel Nabil Sanad was arrested for criticizing the Egyptian military’s role in the revolution. He was sentenced to three years in prison for libel. Human Rights Watch called his arrest “the worst strike against free expression in Egypt” in more than three years.

On Monday, activist and blogger Alaa Abd El Fattah was arrested for speaking out against the military junta’s role in violence that erupted at an Oct. 9 Coptic Christian protest in Cairo.

Despite the dangers of doing civic journalism in a time of such upheaval, I had an opportunity to work with some Arab journalists who are doing just that all over the Middle East. I was actually visiting Egypt as an instructor with the International Center for Journalists, helping to guide a selected group of journalists working on investigations of civic issues in their home communities.

Some in this group were documenting cases of staggering government corruption. As part of their coverage plans, each had to consider how to best protect themselves – and the citizens they’ll be working with – from the imprisonment (or worse) that could result from such reporting. It was quite sobering for this American journalist to see what others are willing to risk for the truth.

While the consequences may not be as frightening, citizen and independent journalists in the U.S. also play a key role in exposing and reporting either ignored or unknown happenings in their communities.

This is what we’re trying to help facilitate through OfftheBus, The Huffington Posts’s citizen journalism program covering the 2012 election process. We’re recruiting an army of volunteers to help make sure our elections are honest, fair and open.

For some, this means reporting stories we at the national level may be missing, as OfftheBus contributor Alex Brant-Zawadzki did when he was first to report on the raffle of a Glock pistol by a Republican organization in the home district of Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who had been shot by the same kind of gun earlier this year. The story was eventually picked up by news outlets all over the U.S.

Even those who wouldn’t consider themselves reporters have a role to play in holding the nation’s candidates and campaigns accountable. Our reporters can’t be everywhere at once, so keep your eyes and ears open for suspicious tactics, messages and outreach efforts – and let us know what’s going on.

One of the ICFJ program participants I met in Egypt, Ali Ghamloush, is leading a citizen journalism effort in Beirut, Lebanon. He co-founded AltCity, a social venture aimed at expanding access to tools, resources and spaces for independent publishers, activists and tech entrepreneurs.

Ali told me about a sort of newsroom-on-wheels that AltCity takes to more remote areas of Lebanon, giving basic training and computer access to citizens eager to tell their own stories.

His program got me thinking about how we at OfftheBus could be providing more resources to people right here in the U.S. who want to have a role in civic reporting. We might not have a bus to take to your town (but it’d be pretty cool if we did), but we do have the wide reach of The Huffington Post to help citizen journalists report, edit and publish their work for a potentially huge audience. Please, email us and let us know what more we can do to help you share your own stories.

Check out the ongoing work of OfftheBus citizen journalists on the 2012 elections and Occupy Wall Street. We’ll soon have more citizen journalism projects available, so sign up for our email list so we can let you know when they’re starting up. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to read the latest work from our volunteers.

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