Harry Potter helps reporter cover a story about Facebook and privacy

Canada’s Privacy Commissioner released a report about Facebook yesterday basically criticizing the social networking giant for not adequately protecting users’ private information.

I was reporting for CBC National Radio News, out of Toronto, although the report was released at a news conference in Ottawa.
I was assigned to cover the story and had a little over 5 hours to get two radio news stories done: one for The World This Hour, and the longer piece for The World at Six.
Deadline for the first show was 4 but in my mind, I said 3 (to make sure I was ready). Deadline for the next was 5 (but I said 4 in my mind, same reason.)
Getting the tape of the press conference was easy — CBC Newsworld broadcast it live, at 11 so we recorded it, and some colleagues dubbed the audio directly into CBC’s editing software called Dalet Plus.
But how to put the story in context, and how to make it interesting for listeners?
We needed a tech expert –I thought of calling Jesse Hirsh, the CBC’s in house tech expert, but also I knew him as my expert resource person in a recent Centennial College summit we had hosted in May about the future of journalism. I didn’t have to call him myself, as it turns out he was on CBC Newsworld directly after the Privacy Commissioner’s report came out. Again, audio was available.
Same thing with the tech lawyers from Ottawa, who had launched the original complaints. I wanted tape, and planned to call Michael Geist’s technology watchdog organization at the University of Ottawa. I had interviewed him myself last year for a story on unlocking cellphones. But again, I didn’t have to call him as CBC had already done an interview with one of their lawyers Jordan Plener, so there was tape available.
As for finding a spokesman for Facebook, I first surfed their corporate site and read announcements from their chief privacy officer, Chris Kelly.
Normally I don’t like using other journalist’s stuff in my work, if I can avoid it. I like to do my own interviews, and ask my own questions. But in this case, with the huge resources of the CBC at my disposal, there was no reason to do double interviews.
Still, I wanted to make the story my own. So as I always try to do, I knew we needed to start the story with real people, who use Facebook.
Where could I find these people? Well, at mid day in downtown Toronto, lots of people would be on the streets. But what theme would the story have? That’s when I thought of going to the Cineplex movie complex in the Entertainment district to find folks going to see the Harry Potter film. The films have been coming out about as long as Facebook has been operating (2004)
So that’s where I headed.
Didn’t think to ask Cineplex head office in advance for permission to record audio and interview patrons inside. Didn’t have time. Should have.
I could have just come in, turned on my tape recorder and gathered sound in the lobby, and they probably wouldn’t have noticed me. But I was up front about it, representing the CBC as I did, so I acted responsibly, and asked permission.
The manager said no, and although she tried to ask her supervisor to let me do this, the answer from head office was “No.”
No matter.
So I left the main lobby, and stood on the street right outside.
No permission needed on the street.
Got some great quotes from Harry Potter movie goers of all ages.
Raced back to the newsroom and filed my 2 stories.

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