Social media in investigative reporting: A conversation with CIR’s Meghann Farnsworth

By Andrew Hart


As InvestigateWest’s new online community manager,  I consider myself a journalist at heart. Although my prior work in social media was for a marketing organization, I bring experience and a mindset of a digital journalist to this new role for InvestigateWest. Some hold that social media is antithetical to journalism, but I disagree. My goal is to share and promote quality reporting through the powerful tools of new media, including social media. Though social media is not as iconic as whirring printing presses and ink smudges, it is connecting journalists with audiences in unprecedented ways.

I came to INVW prepared to plead the case of social media for a non-profit to those who view social media as a new-age marketing tool. Why should professional reporters be concerned with what Joe Anybody has to say about the cost of cereal from his supermarket? I also anticipated that social media activity on behalf of a non-profit reporting organization would need to be conservative and closely scrutinized so as to not embroil the organization in any controversy.

To investigate these assumptions, I called my counterpart at the Berkeley-based Center for Investigative Reporting for some answers. Meghann Farnsworth is the Online Community Manager of the CenterforInvestigativeReporting(CIR) and its subsidiary CaliforniaWatch(CW). What I learned about Farnsworth’s role at CIR and the role of social media in investigative reporting is an exciting glimpse into what new media technology offers to reporters and audiences.


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