Beyond PR

Feb 28, 2012

Socializing the News: Old Media Style

It’s been a rocky relationship for social media and traditional news. And who can really blame mainstream journalists for not taking to social media at first?  After all, social was invading reporters’ turf, beating them to the punch breaking news on twitter.  It was the new, unknown kid on the block, trying to change things up and mainstream media didn’t like it. But in just a few years, the new kid on the block has become the coolest kid on the block that everyone wants to know and hang out with.  Now, social media is being integrated into every aspect of major news organizations.  This was clearly evident by the panel of social media editors from CNN, NBC, NY Times, Bloomberg and Thomson Reuters assembled for a sold out Publicity Club of NY luncheon during Social Media Week in NY.  The panelists included:

The fact that such esteemed news organizations as these created social media editor positions in their newsrooms speaks volumes about the growing role of social media in the old media world.

So what does a social media editor do these days?  Much of their time is spent teaching journalists how to use social media to promote their work and find leads.

Bloomberg’s Yurow admits they are playing catch up compared to some other news orgs.

“We slept through the blog generation and arrived fashionably late to the Twitter and Facebook party.”  As social media producer, Yurow faces a unique challenge. “We have to work to balance between our wire service and social media so that both can thrive.”

I can see how Bloomberg was tardy to the party.  I’ve found that most of the journalists I come into contact with through my media relations work here at PR Newswire are still reluctant to jump on the social media bandwagon. Or should I say they’ve jumped on, but aren’t sure what to do next.  (Full disclosure: I was one of those old media hold outs who finally gave in to social media a few years ago, but not without a lot of  kicking and screaming).

CNN’s Krakauer recalled Piers Morgan’s aversion for Twitter. That changed after 12,000 followers poured in immediately after his very first tweet shortly before his show launched.  Krakauer says it’s about transferring twitter users to television watchers, which apparently is working for Morgan’s show.

“About 7 minutes before the Charlie Sheen interview, Piers tweeted about it and our average audience tripled.”

Social media editors walk a fine line between training, social strategizing, research and development and what Mandy Jenkins, former social editor for Huffington Post politics, refers to as the “twitter monkey”.  Twitter monkeys are left to manually manage their brands’ twitter accounts, alone, 24-7, with little time for anything else. The term got a strong reaction.

“We don’t consider ourselves twitter monkeys,” said Heron.  She is one of of two SM editors at the NY Times “We’re looking at how to bring social media into newsgathering.  We’re constantly looking at new platforms to see where we fit in,” said Heron,.  She added that at the Times, each desk is responsible for its own social media strategy.

When the panelists were asked if they retweet news from other sources, all agreed that curating is a key part of the job.

“In order to be the place where everyone gets news, you have to be a beacon for all news,”  De Rosa replied. “You make yourself more valuable by curating news.”

Though much of the two hour lunch focused on Twitter, other platforms got honorable mentions. In fact, at one point, the moderator asked “if Twitter didn’t exist, what would you be doing?”

Facebook’s new subscribe button, Linkedin, Google+ are all being utilized by the panelist’s news companies as is Pinterest which they are beginning to experiment with.  They each have their own value.

“Pinterest is sustainable because it appeals to the masses,” says Kannally, the youngest on the panel who joined NBC News three months ago.  He says he uses it regularly but is trying to figure out the best way to use it for news.

“Social media is not new. We have to figure out how to be different and innovative and cut through all the noise.”

Author Brett Simon is a member of PR Newswire’s audience development team, and is one of the voices heard on the @prnewswire Twitter presence.

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