Beginning February 1, five journalists will engage in an experiment to test the veracity of social media –- specifically Twitter and Facebook — as a news source. The experiment, sponsored by RFP French-language public broadcasters association and dubbed “Behind Closed Doors on the Net,” will involve reporters from radio stations in Canada, France, Belgium, and Switzerland.

The quintet will spend five days living in a remote farmhouse in the Perigord region in southern France. Each will be provided with a computer (with a clean hard drive), will have to trade in his or her smartphones for mobile phones without web access, and will have heavily restricted Internet access. They will be able to follow links contained within Twitter and Facebook updates, however. Print media such as newspapers will be forbidden, but books will be allowed.

Radio Ink reports, “But Radio Canada’s Janic Tremblay told the paper that he wants to take the experiment further and use only Facebook and Twitter as sources, without using traditional media’s Twitter feeds.”

The radio industry magazine further reports:

‘The experiment will enable us to take a hard look at the myths that exist about Facebook and Twitter,’ said Helene Jouan, a senior editor at French radio station France Inter, which is taking part in the project. ‘Our aim is to show that there are different sources of information and to look at the legitimacy of each of these sources.’

To report the news, the journalists will have a communal blog on the France Info website and a Twitter stream (@HuisClosNet/lesjournalistes), for which all updates will be in French.

Hopefully, the experiment will provide some insight into a few questions regarding the compatibility of social media and traditional media. The answers seem obvious, but the topic remains a point of debate and discussion.

Mathew Ingram from GigaOm writes:

The reality is that no single source is ever enough, whether it’s Twitter or a phone call from a source at City Hall. Social media hasn’t changed that. And the most important aspect of new media is that it is (to use an overused word) an ecosystem. News can begin on Twitter, make its way through Facebook and other networks to blogs and then meet up and merge with reports from the traditional media.

Tremblay will be on the air daily on Radio Canada’s Maisonneuve en direct program throughout the five-day period and all five participants will report on their respective radio stations once the experiment is over.

SOURCE: “News sourcing experiment to rely solely on Facebook, tweets,” Ars Technica, 01/22/10
SOURCE: “Journalists To Look At Facebook, Twitter And The News,” Radio Ink, 01/22/10
SOURCE: “Do Facebook and Twitter Threaten or Complement the News Industry?,” WebProNews, 01/23/10
SOURCE: “What if your only news sources were Facebook and Twitter?,” The Toronto Star, 01/22/10
SOURCE: “Journalists’ Social Media Sideshow Will Prove Nothing,” GigaOm, 01/22/10
Image by Brian Halvorsen, used under its Creative Commons license.  (Note: This is not the actual farmhouse in which the journalists will live.)

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