Cautiously Optimistic

Social media for better communication and a better life

The View from Nowhere

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I recently attended a convention of my state’s newspaper association, and one of the highlights of the convention was a series of training sessions on all aspects of the newspaper business.

It’s not an exaggeration to say that social media was the topic of around half of all of the training sessions. Social media is something that all communicators are grappling with, and newspapers are no exception.

The attendees were a mixture of newspaper owners/publishers and reporters/editors, but the discussions tended to focus on the business side of social media.

The topics included the return on investment for hiring dedicated social media staffers versus giving the responsibility for social media to existing staffers, and the cost-benefit analysis of creating customized newspaper “apps” for smartphones and tablet computers versus spending money to revamp newspaper websites to maximize their viewability across a variety of platforms (PCs, tablets, smartphones).

I didn’t hear much about the impact of social media on the news gathering process itself, which was too bad, because this article from GigaOM’s Mathew Ingram highlighted a problem that the editorial side of newspapers are facing with social media: using it to promote reporters (and by extension, their newspapers) while at the same time preventing those reporters from letting their personalities shine through.

According to the article, the fear is that any hint of personality shining through a reporter’s social media activities could expose the person, and by proxy, the newspaper, of bias or <shudder> a personal opinion. Objective reporting is supposed to reflect “the view from nowhere,” meaning complete impartiality.

But, as the article points out, the whole point of social media is personal connection. So it seems to me that in addition to worrying about the impact of social media on a newspaper’s bottom line, publishers ought to consider its impact on their own reporters and editors.

No one is a robot. We all have opinions and personalities. So if reporters are going to be marketed via their social media output, they have to let their personality shine through. Their reporting has to be “the view from right here.”

Follow me on Twitter at @charlesprimm.

Written by Charles Primm

February 10, 2012 at 12:18 pm

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