At one time or another, everything seems to be considered dead and buried. The latest tripe is that the Social Media Editor, as a practice, is dead. This is ridiculous. There are some places that grew up in the era of digital and some that emerged during the era of social, an even shorter amount of time. Suddenly many feel that you’re all specialists at social media. No, not the “how to grow your Twitter following to a million in 30 days” variety or “how to be a socia media :sic: influencer” or even worse “guru” variety. There are serious people using social media to do very valuable tasks with social media to inform and produce real work for newsrooms.
The problem is that gap hasn’t been fully closed yet, both on the digital native side of things and on the more traditional side. Every organization is different. To say they all have evolved to the point where they no longer need specialists who have unique skills of a social media editor is born more out of a need for columnists to have a clever narrative than something well rooted in reality.
Buzzfeed might not need a team of social media editors (but they do have them!) , most of their employees are well versed on how to mine social platforms for sources and first-hand information. What they might not be as well versed in is being able to vet and verify that information (some are better than others) which is where many traditional, more experienced newsrooms may have an advantage. You need a hybrid of both.
I always felt I was a hybrid, I think over time I just happened to learn more about the traditional journalism skills that Reuters is lucky to have a wealth of in their newsroom. Hopefully I absorbed much of that and integrated it into my work as a social media editor. If you’re a traditional editor, you need to do the opposite, and really understand what it takes to be a social media editor because you really need both of those skills these days to do either job. They’re essentially hybrid roles on either side because news doesn’t just happen where traditional editors were trained to look even just 5 or 10 years ago.
The job of the social media editor is now more important than ever and it’s a role that demands even more accountability, skill and ability to communicate well with the wider newsroom. They need resources, they need a team of people who also focuses their efforts on informing their newsroom about what they’re seeing on social and training them on how to do it themselves. They need people who are constantly testing out new tools to figure out which ones will help them separate the noise on social from the valuable newsworthy first-hand reports in the form of updates, photos and videos that can either be used on background or integrated directly into stories. If you think all newsrooms are already doing this without the assistance of social media editors you’re kidding yourself and you don’t actually know what the role of a social media editor is.
Newsrooms need to be better at doing these things without the help of a social media editor. Sorry, but most of them are not there yet and killing off the role of the Social Media Editor won’t help it happen anytime sooner, in fact it will likely make the transition longer and more painful.