That’s the question that made the rounds last week through the Twittersphere and Blogosphere.
On one side, we had Rob Fishman of Buzzfeed who declared the death of the social media editor. He wrote:
At many news organizations, “social media” has become something of a catch-all, a not especially descriptive term for highly differentiated functions. Editors think about social sharing as they’re assigning stories; writers use social channels to find sources and confirm leads; designers incorporate social media buttons and widgets into site redesigns; tech teams optimize pages for social discovery; and salespeople increasingly sell brands on their sizable social audiences. Each of these might require its own hire or department.
On the other, Mathew Ingram who wrote an insightful piece over at GigaOM:
So is the notion of a single person who spends their entire day on Twitter creating hashtags and calling themselves the social-media editor dead? Yes — or at least I hope so. The idea that being social or engaging with readers in new ways belongs to a specific subset of journalists reminds me of the bad old days when newspapers had a single “internet editor” or “web editor.”
A quick disclosure: I can only speak about the Canadian media to which I’ve been out of for almost a year now. Things may have changed slightly.
When I was social media editor at a major metropolitan daily, my job pretty much boiled down to posting things on Twitter and Facebook. I was, as Mandy Jenkins would say, a Twitter monkey. I wanted to be a community editor, rather than a social media editor, but that was met with wariness.
When I moved on to a small news startup, I had bigger ideas of what my role could be. I even asked that instead of being referred to as the site’s “Social Media Editor,” I could be “social media and community editor.”
I saw building and maintaining an active community central to being a social media editor. As far as I could see, there was an enormous opportunity for media brands to create community among their readers and commenters. Heck, I was even idealistic enough to think that by building the right kind of community, the level of discourse among a site’s commenters would rise to meet the community’s standards. Surely not overnight, but I believed it could happen.
Sure, Fishman is right. Anyone can post stuff on Twitter and Facebook. And more reporters are tweeting nowadays than they were even one year ago. But that doesn’t mean reporters know much more about how to use social mediums to curate information. I haven’t seen too many more Andy Carvin’s popping up lately.
I think we’re also at a point where media brands are realizing it’s less about broadcasting their information, and building community around their readers.
Perhaps being a social media editor is simply like being an editor for any other section. Sure, anyone can do it. But those who do it well should rise above the rest.