In last Wednesday’s post, I described how new media make the reader an equal partner in journalism, able to talk back to, as well as compete with, the journalist. The same dynamic similarly changes the journalist’s relation to his or her employer. Journalists no longer need a traditional publisher in order to talk with readers.
Formerly, most journalists were, to readers, little more than a name on a page. But in the social media world, they have an increasingly personal and direct connection to their readers. In the terms of commerce, journalists are becoming brands, potentially the equal of their employer’s corporate brand.
Having a personal, conversational relationship with an audience inevitably means having a distinctive voice and point of view. To traditionally trained journalists, this may seem not simply unfamiliar, but unprofessional. Vadim Lavrusik, Facebook’s journalism program manager, puts it this way:
“As journalists, we often squirm at phrases like ‘personal branding.’ But the reality is that social media, and the social Web in general, have created a shift from the institutional news brand to journalists’ personal brands . . . [and] a consumption environment that encourages conversation as much as content, and the personal as much as the professional. It’s a shift from the logo to the face.”
As all forms of media become more personal, the bonds that link media professional to corporate employer become weaker. At the same time, the connections to social networks grow stronger. For journalists the implications of this trend are simple: embrace social networking, or say goodbye to your career.