I was reading the horrible story about Michael Jones, the young soccer coach whose throat was slit on a NYC street over the weekend. It’s a very sad story and now, on top of everything, it’s possible the dead man, who grew up in Liverpool, England, may have been the victim of mistaken identity. And the alleged killer has now apparently escaped to Mexico.
But what caught my eye in the story was the way in which the NYPD informed the dead man’s family of the tragedy — they used Facebook! According to the Daily News:
Perry Jones (Michael’s father) said news of the tragedy reached him and his wife, Carole, 53, as they were watching Liverpool, their son’s beloved team, play rival Stoke City to a 0-0 draw on television.
“Michael’s brother (Philip) got a Facebook message saying there had been an accident and that we needed to ring the police department in New York,” Perry Jones said.
Interesting that even the cops use Facebook to get information about someone. Not surprising really. It couldn’t be only us journalists. Civilians may not know this but journalists love Facebook and use it extensively, especially in reporting and ferreting out information in crime stories.
Anytime someone is killed, all journalists eyes turn to Facebook and that list of friends. Immediately, dozens of emails go out, sent to anyone who may have known the victim or his or her killer. I’m sure it’s used just as frequently for other types of reporting but I pretty much work the murder side of the street.
In the old days, there were foot-high books in newsrooms called reverse directories. Say there was a murder in a building on E. 35th Street. Reporters would grab the reverse, open it to the address of the victim where all the people in the building would be listed, including their phone numbers. At that point, it was time to begin cold calling each and every neighbor in an effort to learn what we could about the deceased. I have not seen a reverse directory in years. Facebook makes all that so much easier. Just go to the person’s page, pull down his or her list of friends and begin writing emails. You’d be amazed how much information is gleaned this way.
It might make you more aware that, really, you should put as little information out there publicly as you can. That guy in third grade who always thought you’d grow up to be a serial killer? He might be speaking to reporters? That woman you unceremoniously dumped who’d love to get her revenge? She’ll likely be talking too. You never know who is watching and looking so beware. On second thought, forget I said anything.