During my internship this summer, the editorial interns (the mere 12 of us) had lunch with interns from other departments of The Times. We went around and introduced ourselves and stated what department we were working with. At least one-third of them were social media and marketing interns. It became a joke, almost, among us editorial interns. Many of these interns were responsible for maintaining The Times's Facebook page and Twitter accounts. It became very clear to me that social media is becoming a huge part of the news industry, even at the most traditional newspapers. I would define "social media" as any website that promotes interaction among users.
Journalists are now using Facebook to promote their own stories and gain a more loyal readership base. Facebook allows them to see what their readers think of their stories, whether they "like" them or not, what comments they post. There is more interaction between the providers and recipients of news. And it's free, which is a major plus given the state of the media industry.
Many journalists (at least a lot of my fellow student journalists) also use Facebook to find sources. So many times I've seen statuses by my fellow J-Schoolers asking for help finding subjects ("Does anyone know anyone who ______?" "Have you ever ____? If so, message me!") This use of Facebook does raise some ethical questions. Is it acceptable to scope out sources through Facebook? I personally have never used the site in this manner, because I personally think it's a bit unprofessional. But that doesn't necessarily mean it's unethical. I think people at traditional media outlets would frown upon it, but as times change, I believe these methods of newsgathering will become more and more acceptable.
I think Facebook could be used to see what readers want to read before a journalists starts a story. The journalist could pose the question on their page, "what do you want to read?" and see how people respond. This would be a good way of maintaining a good relationship with readers and ensuring that they stay loyal as long as possible.