A politician I know asked the other day about whether to connect with me on Facebook. "Can you understand why I'd be cautious?" he wondered.
I can understand it but I can't imagine why. No one's been burned before as far as I know. I think I'm a nice guy, a fair and reasonable fellow without a hidden agenda.
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But then again, who doesn't think he's a nice guy?
Still, social media isn't really designed for "gotcha" journalism. Of course, if a politician who friended me on Facebook said something outlandish on it, yes, of course, I'd put the newsroom on it, but that isn't the reason I'm on Facebook or the reason journalists in general are on Facebook and it isn't really the point of the social network.
No, the point of it is relationships.
That's the real beauty and value of it -- -- expanding on relationships, whether it's reconnecting with a long lost high school classmate or getting to know a reader or a newsmaker. And them getting to reconnect with or to get to know me.
I approach Facebook, I think, a little differently than a lot people. I don't have a personal account and a business account and maybe a hobby account -- accounts customized for the type of "friendships."
Just one account. (You can find it by searching "John Lampinen Daily Herald.")
In it, I am "friends" with family, with fellow employees, with industry colleagues, with business associates, with readers, with sources, with newsmakers, with friends from childhood, with friends from adulthood.
That's a large gamut of people with a wide variety of interests and a wide variety of reasons why any may include me as their Facebook friends. They also have, of course, a variety of privacy settings. Some share a great deal of who they are; some don't. Some are very restrictive with the settings on their posts; some never restrict anything.
Me, I try to be myself. I try to be a friend who happens to be the editor of the paper.
I post personal observations and family anecdotes. I post story referrals. I talk about the news business. I occasionally make jokes. Sometimes they're even funny. Sometimes I'll say, "The governor's coming in. What should we ask him?" It runs the gamut. I try to be a good FB friend and interact with what others post.
With so such a large cross section of people, it's difficult consistently to interact with everybody. No, "difficult" isn't the right word; "impossible" is. And I don't sweat it or try to make it happen. What tends to happen is that, as in life, certain people float in for a while and then certain other people do and then certain others. People come and people go. I've got people broken up into different lists. Sometimes I find the time to check certain lists out to make sure I catch up. But more often, I review whatever floats in on the tide.
I seldom block my posts. They're restricted, almost always, only to "Friends." I almost never post "Public." On occasion with certain personal information, I restrict it to a custom field of "Family" but that's rare.
Whatever the restriction, I don't post anything I wouldn't want the world to see because you can bet, the world could see it if it wanted to. I give my opinion on sports, but not much else in the news. Definitely not on politics. I sometimes watch political debates, but I never engage in them.
Nonetheless, because of Facebook, there are so many people I know better today than I once knew them. That's a tremendous benefit, whether the purpose of expanding the relationship is personal, journalistic or business.
While this column isn't much like Facebook, one of its greatest values to me is that it lets me to get a sense of some of you. And to let you get to know a bit of me.
I like that. There's an old saw that the best journalism is personal journalism. The Information Age gives us opportunities to connect personally in ways we never did before.
Thanks for reading.
• (We encourage you to talk with the editor by clicking on the Comments widget and providing your response to today's column. We want a provocative discussion but one that also abides by general rules of civility ... We expect to publish some of today's comments in the print editions ... Please also consider friending John on Facebook by searching John Lampinen Daily Herald and following him on Twitter @DHJohnLampinen)