A colleague asked me the other day how I was able to get in touch with a man who until the day before was in jail pending assault charges for a hatchet attack.
Not really, but it is interesting to note how much information is available out there on social networking sites, and how much it of a help it can be for reporting.
Like this: people were defending a man accused of murder on the Conway Daily Sun Facebook page, so I shot several of them a message with my work phone number. One of them got back to me, and I interviewed her about the man’s character.
Then a couple weeks later there was this hatchet attack. The same woman was listed in court documents as living with the accused. So I called her up. She talked to me briefly, but when the man got out of jail on bail she had him call me.
He then said he was threatened and called racial slurs prior to the attack (the man is black). I looked at the MySpace page of one of the men involved, and his last name on that page was “Reich.” He was also fans of skinhead neo-Nazi bands. It lent some credence to the man’s story, and it sparked an interesting conversation with the police about whether they would charges coming out for anyone else in the incident.
I have also used Facebook to link people, such as relatives of the man who fathered Krista Dittmeyer’s daughter. It’s amazing what is available online. Reporters don’t have a lot of rules, and they have to use everything at their disposal to get the story. Facebook and other social media have proven to be one hell of a tool.