Not 'liking' politics on Facebook

Last week, one of my friends sent a message that he was surprised I liked an certain organization on Facebook. I didn't strike him as that kind of a guy, he wrote. The organization was a political action committee. I like hundreds of other groups and politicians on Facebook. Social media is one of the most direct ways elected officials and those running for office use to communicate with their supporters. This is an invaluable tool for reporters like me.

But the message made me uncomfortable. He saw that I "like" the page via an ad Facebook ads have become a common and effective way of marketing a page. Some of the best ads show users which mutual friends also like a page. The ads give off the appearance that, "Hey, join your friends and like this page too."

I don't really like most of pages I "like," especially any of the political ones. My employer knows this, most of my "friends" know it, and the politicians should know it, although, I met one who kept seeing I liked his opponent in an ad and was upset.

But no matter who all knows this, people often forget these lines while on social media. We go on sites like Facebook to post and interact with a wide variety of content. Someone could browse photos a friend posted from a recent trip, then comment on their mothers status, then see a political ad for a politician that I "like."

How long does it take for them to change their context of thinking? They just spent some time interacting personally with the site -- not in a professional manner, which is under the context I "like" the certain page. They may not immediately think about why I like the page. Clearly, my friend did not make that connection.

Who I actually endorse in real life is only known by me, God and the ballot. And that's who all needs to know. As a journalist, it's my job to provide readers and voters with the best, unbiased information. Facebook can confuse it all.

So what to do? I am un-liking everything on Facebook that I actually don't like. It's going to take a lot of time, there's a lot of them, but I think it is vital as social media spending will likely reach a high this election.

To keep track, I am adding them all to the so-called "interest pages," something I have not used but look forward to testing.

This will give me another stream to check for work-related Faceboking, but hopefully allows me to spend less time getting distracted by personal feeds while I am at work.

If that doesn't work, I will have to try other methods. But hopefully my name, which I hope is trusted when it comes to political news, isn't used by algorithms to give off false impressions of my opinion.

Election is done, and now...

So the election is over. I don't even know where to begin.

It's been really a nine-month effort with everyone at work. When our new company MLive Media Group launched, we focused day one on how we would cover the election. We all worked really hard and election night was not stressful like one would image...the only stress was waiting for the results so we could execute our plans.

And now it's over, time to move onto other things before preparing for the next election, or well, the next big story to cover in Kalamazoo. I have three weeks of vacation to take by the end of the year, so hopefully it will provide ample time to read all the books that have accumulated on my Kindle in the past seven months. Also, I'm looking forward to some cooking, running, and doing all the things I haven't for a long time.

This election has been the best experience I've had in my short journalism career. It's kind of bittersweet, too. I realized I wanted to get into journalism after the 2008 election when I was studying the classicists at college. I was tired of being an observer to the elections, to the process, and knew I wanted to be involved in someway. I knew at first it wasn't politics, so why not help people make an informed decision when they vote?

Here's what I would say are the top five stories I've written about the election:

This was the first time that I've felt like I could write with authority on a subject, and offer more to my readers than just surface coverage. I look forward to doing the same in governing as campaigning.

Looking back at 9/11: one year after the 10 year anniversary

11 years ago, four airplanes were highjacked in one of the largest terrorist attacks in U.S. history.

Last year, I wrote three stories for MLive and the Kalamazoo Gazette looking back on the ten-year anniversary.

I talked to Larry Beer, a Kalamazoo-area psychologist who went to Ground Zero to provide his services to first responders. I met with a group of firefighters in Paw Paw who went to New York to help with the recovery in the days following the attacks. There was also the story of Kathy Hoorn, whose son, Bradley, 22, who was working in New York City when one of the planes struck north tower of the World Trade Center.

As I interviewed these people the week before the anniversary, I realized I couldn’t relate, at all.  Ten years earlier, I was 13 years old, in 8th grade. I had no perception.

Among friends and at work, everyone asked everyone else: where were you at that moment.

I was in middle school jazz band. A girl in our class was bound to a wheelchair (but played the drum kit) and her parapro’s daughter called us. She said something happened, an airplane crashed in the Twin Towers in New York City.

Our teacher let us stop playing, and we technology-apt students tried to find what we could on our schools out-dated computers with dial-up speed internet. We didn’t have televisions in the school.

During the next class, social studies, I told my teacher about what we heard. Litterily disconnected, with little way of getting information, she told me not to say anything.

For the rest of the day school went on as normal, besides in English class, when the teacher broke the rules (don’t all English teachers? They’re all “cool”) and told us what she knew. Still it was not much.

When school got out at 2:20 p.m., we had no idea. In our ignorance, we made jokes.

I don't know what I really remember from that night's broadcast, since so many of those images have been repeated over and over again, but what sticks out the most was all of Congress standing on the steps of the Capitol sining "God Bless America."

And now I see this year how the enormity of the attacks didn’t really hit me until ten years later when I talked to these people who were there or lost a loved one.

Ten years later, 23, I realized, for the first times in my young journalism career, that I had nothing really meaningful to add to the conversation: The first time I flew was "post-9/11." National security has always been "at risk" and for most of my life we've been at war in Afghanistan.

I needed to let these people share their stories. And today, we should remain quiet and let those who need to, speak.

So this year, reflecting, I hope to remember the people who died and those who were effected by writing this and letting the people who need to speak be heard.