Trade journalists turn social

February 6, 2012

The rise of social media has often been seen as a threat to journalists’ autonomy in the publication of information. As Lionel Barber, Editor of the Financial Times says: “Journalists have lost their monopoly role as gatekeepers to this flow of information. There are others now on stage…”

By others, Barber refers to the large numbers of regular people who publish as a hobby.  Blogging and social media certainly provide a platform for so-called ‘Citizen journalists’ as everyone has the same ability to put a story ‘out there’.

However, just because people are able to publish it doesn’t mean that what they publish is any good. Journalists are valuable because of their writing, analysis and editing skills. Advances in social media do not change that. Thus Lionel Barber goes on to say that the existence of other media “does not render their [editors’] role redundant”.

Another editorial hot shot, Former Director of BBC Global News Division, Richard Sambrook, claims that social media (like Twitter) should not be seen as competition by journalists. He argues: “Information is not journalism…. You get a lot of things, when you open up Twitter in the morning, but not journalism”.

He’s right, social media is not an arena for journalism and editorial content as such. It is, however, a great tool for getting noticed, taking part in debates and expanding readership.   Hacks new and old from the nationals have of course jumped into Twitter in a big way, establishing their voice online:… Patent ping-pong continues – now Apple gets Motorola German iphone/ipad sales ban overturned

— Rory Cellan-Jones (@BBCRoryCJ) February 3, 2012

Trade media journalists have vast knowledge of the field that they work in. Their role has always been to identify new trends in their industry and give their trusted opinion and social media can be used to capitalise on this, establishing trade journalists as true thought leaders in their field. One could also argue that the more information there is out there, the more valuable their role in filtering out the interesting issues is.  Would the scientific community find out about this Russian space mission without Roger Highfield’s tweet?

Russia is heading to the moon…

— Roger Highfield (@RogerHighfield) February 4, 2012

Essentially, if you are seen to regularly discuss the same topic or issue online, readers can see that you know your stuff and share their passion and you will also be seen as an informed source, gaining a larger following and readership as a consequence. Trade press editor, Adam Tinworth argues that the web is kind to niche experts like trade journalists as they “aren’t trying to build communities- they’re serving communities that already exist”. The Internet is also search-led and therefore access to niche topics and experts is easier for readers online. Being visible in the right areas and engaged in right debates will allow trade journalism to thrive through thought leadership and expert reputation.

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