A major newspaper is about to undergo another dreaded round of layoffs. After the first wave of buyouts, a tough choice has to be made been two journalists of equal talent and seniority. One journalist has a large following and active presence on several social media sites. The other does not. Who offers more value to their organization?
While things are not that simple, the fact is that being social media savvy is becoming an increasingly important part of a reporter’s skill set.
In developing social media strategies for news sites, marketing typically takes the lead on the audience development and content promotion aspects, while the editorial staff focuses more on using social media for sourcing, identifying trends, coming up with story ideas, etc. But there is actually a lot of overlap between the two groups.
Take content promotion. Who would readers rather interact with about a particular story – someone from marketing or the reporter who wrote the article?
A couple weeks ago Tom Foremski and Todd Defren looked at the question of whether or not PR firms could or should use their ability to drive exposure and traffic through social media as a carrot in media pitches. A similar question could be asked of news organizations. Could the strength of journalists’ social media presence impact their ability to get assignments? Will editors favor those who will bring greater exposure to the piece and the organization through their social networks?
That might be taking it too far, but there is no doubt that social media blurs the lines between marketing and editorial and offers a number of new ways to interact with audiences. News organizations that take advantage of these opportunities are putting themselves in a position to succeed.
This blurring benefits the journalists too. In an era where “journalist job security” is becoming an oxymoron, having a strong social media presence makes reporters less expendable and more marketable should they need to find new work.
So what should journalists do? At The Future Journalist session last night in New York, Sree Sreenivasan and Vadim Lavrusik talked about the skills and qualities that media professionals now need to possess. I wasn’t able to attend, but the powerpoint and the syllabus for Professor Sreenivasan’s “Social-media Skills for Journalists” course offer some insights into where they see things heading.
The bottom line: The ways that people consume news and define the “news media” are rapidly changing, and the role of the journalist is evolving with those changes. Journalists who are active in social media bring more value to their news organizations and strengthen their own job security.