As editorial jobs stagnate, newsrooms hire social media experts

by Veronika Belenkaya
Oct 30, 2018 in Social Media

In an era of shrinking journalism budgets and media strategy shifts, it's a sign of the times that among the first hires this year will be a social media editor.

According to The Wall Street Journal's job announcement, the editor should have "strong journalistic instincts" but also work effectively with large online communities, be experienced in web analytics and project management and know how to spin a good story with text, data or other tools.

The hire is part of a larger trend to introduce these hybrid online journalist/community managers in major U.S. publications.

The New York Times made waves in 2009 when the Gray Lady hired its first social media editor. Since then, The Times' social media strategy has evolved and the team now counts three people.

"We tell our journalists and encourage them to not just think about social media as distribution and promotion,” the paper's current social media editor Liz Heron said at the BBC Social Media Summit recently. “In fact, if you just think about it only as distribution, you’re not getting what you can out of social media, the most that you can, which is really about user interaction, engagement and news gathering.”

Other publications are following suit by hiring for social media positions that didn't exist five years ago, to include The Los Angeles Times and the Daily News and National Geographic. Forbes also recently launched a new digital newsroom with an entire "audience development team" as part of the editorial staff.

While the duties of social media editors vary, most include managing the publication's Twitter and Facebook accounts as well as more nebulous "reader engagement" activities across platforms.

Should journalists who aspire to work for A-list publications focus on developing social media skills?