According to Robert Niles in his Online Journalism Review article, “Newspaper columnists ought to be the perfect bloggers. So why aren’t more doing it well?” newspaper writers are failing to grasp the importance of savvy social media skills. By neglecting to join online communities like Twitter and blog groups, journalists fail to build their online brands and make connections to their readers (and therefore limit their digital audience).
Journalists should absolutely learn how to use digital media to garner a larger audience, produce more relevant content, and connect to other professionals. While print journalism is an excellent news outlet, it is one-directional. The content goes out to readers, but the readers are unable to respond or connect directly to the author and others who have read the content. Unlike traditional print news, digital news provides a platform for authors and audiences to exchange information and opinions instantly. Social media sites such as Twitter allow users to share links, photos, quotes, status updates, etc. with just a few swipes of the thumbs across a phone keypad. This is a tool that could and does revolutionize the sharing of information, and journalists shouldn’t fear it.
Perhaps it is the personal nature of social media that deters journalists from fully engaging. Unlike a newspaper (which conceals the author’s identity, save the byline and maybe an accompanying headshot) social media is the author. It is his or her brand–an extension of their mind onto the Web, available for anyone to access in any corner of the globe. Is this personal accessibility forcing journalists into a state of vulnerability? Or is it the effort needed to foster a family of hundreds, thousands, or even millions of strangers just too much to handle when one could simply write a print article and send it out into the world? I think these both contribute to the reluctancy of journalists to join online blogging and social media communities. However, in a time when speed and interconnectivity of people and information is critical for communication, journalists should overcome their fears of a digital presence.