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260. When journalists try to become brands

January 28, 2013

Let me go straight to the point. The biggest beneficiaries of Twitter have been smart journalists who learnt to use the medium well and became not just stars they were at media outlets but bigger stars on the social networking scene. There is nothing wrong about that ambition as long as the employee of an outlet realises he or she exists because of the reader or viewer firstly and secondly because of the outlet itself.

It’s a different case when journalists become stars on their own merit and a great example of that is N. Madhavan (hats off to this man)  who did not ride on the fame of his employer but created a base for himself through wit and wisdom. However, there are some who use the name of the outlet in their handle and the problem is with this variety. Did they get permission from their employer to use the brand name in the handle? or Did they just took for granted that they can?

Well, several Indian journalists working in hindi television do that.What happens when they move on? Do they retain their handle? They have the option to change it? What if their employer did not give them permission to use the brand name in the handle? or what if employers get smart and say the handles belong to them?

The point I’m making is simple. Unless you own the brand using the name of the media outlet in your handle is just high handedness. It all boils down to the breaking news war. To be able to tweet something before your employer’s handle does? An employee can never be bigger than or indispensable to the organsisation he works for, however big he or she maybe in stature.

Because the organisation makes him or her and the organisation becomes what it is because of its customers. The point I’m making because of the recent story I read about Jim Roberts moving on from The New York Times of which he is the assistant managing editor and the unecessary issue being created about him taking away his 77,000 followers.

It is a non-issue and my blog is also to highlight how some outlets make mountains out of molehills. Jim Roberts is what he is because of where he works. If Amit Bapna (name of an Indian journalist) was in his position he would have had the same number of followers or lesser or more. When Jim moves on someone else will take his position and have that many followers but it is possible that a large number of the 77,000 followers are already following @NYtimes which has 7.3 million followers.

If you read NYT because of Jim, you will continue reading it because of his replacement in most likelihood because ultimately Jims will come and go NYT will remain in some form or the other. The question outlets should ask his if they should stop permitting their employees to tweet before the news comes from an official handle. that will change the game.

The bylines journalists get maybe theirs but the content belongs to the outlet and there are no two ways about it. This Jim Roberts incident will set in motion a practice where outlets will change social media policies for their employees. Because we are never bigger than the organisation that pays us.

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