This is a story a couple of my co-workers told me about today that I wanted to share. I can't wait to hear what the results are...
Five European journalists are hiding from the world for five days and cutting themselves away from all media except Facebook and Twitter in an effort to test the quality of news attained solely through social networking.
Big Brother is being re-imagined this week as five journalists hide away in a secret French farm for five days, forgoing all access to any media except Facebook and Twitter. The RFP French-language public broadcasters association is conducting the experiment to test the quality of news attained only through these social networking tools.
European radio reporters Benjamin Muller, Nour-Eddine Zidane, Janic Tremblay, Anne-Paule Martin and Nicolas Willems ceased contact with the outside world Monday. They have agreed to lose their smartphones and use only mobile phones without internet access. They cannot access television, radio or newspapers.
Secretary general of RFP Françoise Dost told Agence France-Presse reporters that they five subjects would also each be given a computer with a blank hard drive. "They have agreed to be linked to the outside world only through Twitter and Facebook. No web surfing is allowed,“ she said.
All five journalists have previously worked with social networks on the Internet. Nicolas Willems, a foreign reporter from Belgium, named Iran as a typical example of a country, in which short pieces of text with opposition messages sent via SMS to Twitter maintained good and independent information.
"I am going into the project very open minded and am very excited. It is possible that after five days we will realize that our reporting abilities are very limited. But perhaps we will discover a new method of working and will be very pleasantly surprised,“ he told the German Broadcaster WDR.
According to Senior Editor at France Inter Helene Jouan's statement to AFP, the experiment makes it possible to test all the myths that exist about Facebook and Twitter. France Inter is one of the radio stations sending a journalist to participate in the project.
"Our aim is to show that there are different sources of information and to look at the legitimacy of each of these sources," she said.
Social networking as a news source
Despite the usefulness of the social networking sites in news gathering and dissemination, the tools can also cause trouble.
"Facebook is for friends, and Twitter I use as an alert system, because you must always be careful about it," Nour-Eddine Zidane, the journalist from France Inter participating in the project told AFP, citing a tweet about a computer meltdown in French post offices that turned out to be false.
With this danger of errors, the five reporters have the difficult task of sifting through what's right and what's not. They will each make daily radio appearances discussing what news they learned each day, and also post to a communal blog.
In France, all the media's eye lies on the experiment and several television stations wanted to film the journalists at work.
“They will be well nourished on this farm that harbors tourists in the summer. We even considered (that would have been more low-priced) to put them somewhere – even in a container here in the yard of radio France. But then we would have had to organize lunch and supper… now it is all good: they have a roof over their heads, and we just have to keep the address secret,” Dost told WDR.
The project has already been compared to similar reality television programs, but on this, Dost disagrees.
“These comparisons annoy me because this isn't for recreation. This is a serious work experiment the idea for which has existed for over a year in the face of development of social networking which is taking on more and more importance,” Dost told the French newspaper Le Figaro.
“Certain young people function only by sharing information through such new media. We have no ulterior motive with this experience; we do not look to criticize Twitter and Facebook in any way. It is only a matter of simply observing the information that emerges on these networks and the vision of the world that they bring,” she said.
The journalists will be locked away through Feb 5.
Author: Alina DainEditor: Mark Mattox