Are Journalists Really On-Board With Social Media?

It would seem that journalists have embraced social media wholeheartedly. There is no shortage of journalists on Twitter. Most journalists produce content for blogs and share links to their posts across social bookmarking sites, right? That’s what I thought too.

Over the course of the past couple of weeks, I’ve had several conversations with marketing professionals that work with traditional print journalists (some of the biggest outlets you can think of). I was surprised to hear how many journalists on their staffs have yet to take the plunge.

On a related topic, I recently researched a media list, looking for the Twitter handles of a few dozen journalists I wanted to start following. I was surprised to find that only 1 in 10 of them had an active Twitter account. Granted, these weren’t mainstream journalists, but rather trade reporters and editors – but really, 1 in 10?

It would seem from this casual observation that there are still a lot of journalists that either don’t see the value in social media yet, or don’t have the time to really get to know the ins and outs of all the various tools out there.

I figured this would be a good time to revisit the benefits of social media for journalists, in the event we can convert one more traditional journalist over to the dark side of social media. Feel free to add your two cents in the comments, but here are the most obvious benefits as I see them:

  • Reach – a journalist that shares links to their most recent content via an RSS feed, tweets or social bookmarking will get a lot more traffic to their posts than somebody that doesn’t use these tools. If you’re a journalist, and you’re not using Twitter to share links to your content, you’re missing a huge opportunity to engage new readers and ultimately strengthen the value you bring to your organization.
  • Feedback – whether voluntary through blog comments, thumbs up/thumbs down feedback, or solicited feedback from users, social media gives journalists more insight into how their community is interacting with the content they produce. It’s a two-way communication model that is relatively new to the world of traditional media. If I were a professional journalist today, I would love to have this type of feedback on the content I’m working so hard to produce every day.
  • Sources – there are literally millions of people using social media today. If I need a source for a story, they’re only a tweet away. You can’t beat this feature of social media. Journalists can dramatically expand the range of sources they can pull from for any story, while significantly reducing the effort required to find a qualified source quickly.
  • Measurement – some organizations share Web analytics data with their journalists, some don’t. If you use a blog with Google Analytics or an RSS feed like Feedburner, you have instant access to detailed statistics on your content. You can learn how readers are discovering your content, how they are sharing your content, and which articles or posts your readers love or hate the most.
  • Branding – social media enables journalists to develop their own personal brands. Journalists need to find new and innovative ways to separate themselves from the other journalists in their organization. Everyone is competing in the news environment, and those that leverage social media have a competitive advantage to build their personal brands in association with the outlets they produce content for.
  • Job Security – in times of trouble, it’s the journalists with the largest and most loyal readership that should be kept on staff. This isn’t always the case, but it can’t hurt to have a huge social media following on top of reader survey data that says your content is the best. Journalists that drive the most traffic and readers enable the media outlet to realize more revenue opportunities. For this reason, social media goes a long way towards promoting job security for journalists – if leveraged to its potential.

These are just a few ideas off the top of my head. If you’re one of those journalists who have yet to explore the possibilities for social media around the work that you do, I strongly encourage you to reach out to your more social media-savvy team members to learn more. Attend a local social media conference to learn how other professionals are leveraging social media tools for journalism. Better yet, get yourself a Twitter account or start a new blog and learn by doing. I have yet to hear of a downside to using social media for journalism – beyond the time and effort it takes.

What other ways can journalists use social media? Are you a journalist that’s NOT using social media today? Why? Are you a journalist that’s using social media, but has yet to see the value?

(Image Credit: Blindfolded Typing Competition by Foxtongue)

About Jeremy Porter 214 Articles
Jeremy Porter has been passionate about the intersection of public relations and journalism since studying both Public Relations and Journalism at Utica College of Syracuse University in the late 90s. Porter launched Journalistics in 2009 to share his ideas and insights around both professions and how trends and developments in modern day marketing, communications, and technology impact those working in these fields. Porter also values the traditions and history of both professions and regularly shares his perspective in these areas - and related topics geared toward the next generation of journalism and public relations professionals.


  1. Hey, Jeremy: great article! I am trying to expand my group of journalists that I follow (or who follow me) on Twitter. Sending the first Tweet was a little difficult not really knowing what to say but once you start… it comes naturally. It is a great tool that both media and PR folks can benefit from. Thanks for writing this.

  2. Great post, Jeremy. I’ve thought about doing a post on this topic. I’m actually seeing more and more journalists take the plunge with social media in my market. However, there are very few who do it really well. Journalists that use social media well, certainly stand out in the crowd.

    I think that sourcing and feedback are two big reasons journalists should use social media. I am starting to see publications and reporters tweet about needing sources for particular topics or asking for story ideas. I think that this is the one of the most valuable ways journalists can use social media.

    For journalists that have not signed on – what’s keeping you from jumping on board? I’d love to know!

  3. Good post….the sad truth is i know a lot of journalists who are damned concerned about their jobs. Regarding journalists who use Twitter my personal experience shows that really depends what they cover.

    • I’ve heard that “depends what you cover” thing before too. I’ve met journalists that cover agriculture, beekeeping, aerospace, local government, religion and more via Twitter – I can’t think of a single instance where a journalist would be at a disadvantage using social media in some capacity.

  4. I often wonder if journalists who refuse to join the social media ranks are of the mindset that their jobs currently rely heavily on print publications staying afloat. A solid profitable news distribution service hasn’t been developed to work in the journalist’s favor yet, like the current print model.

    • I was focusing more on the engagement and audience growth benefits of social media versus social media as a business model for journalism.

      Personally, I’m more likely to pay for a subscription to media that support both print and online, with a side of social.

  5. The resistance by some journalists may be caused by a fear and loathing of the technology behind social media platfoms. They see SM as a complicated gadget they need to learn rather than a channel to all of the great benefits you listed.

    We all recognize the stereotype from 20 years ago of the cigar-chompin’ reporter who refused to use a computer to write a story. Maybe today’s journalist who won’t make the social media leap is the new version of that guy.

  6. I have spoken with a few reporters at the major newspapers in our two nearby metro areas. They are not anti-social media, they just haven’t yet seen the need, nor do they have a lot of time to explore new things.

    Staff around them has been cut to the bone, as has space in many sections of the paper, so they are even more overworked. One regional weekend entertainment section has been mostly outsourced. For another regional entertainment reporter – he still gets the traditional press releases from the museums, non-profits and entertainment venues that he used to get, so the old ways are still working for him. I asked about social media releases – he said: when I start getting them I’ll learn to use them – but right now – no one has ever sent me one.

    I agree with most of the points in your story – most journalists would benefit from using social media, except for balancing the learning curve and time it can take. But those of us who are “into” social media forget sometimes that we are in a bubble. Although there are millions of people using social media – there are also millions who are not yet doing so, or who are just testing the fringes. For many people – social media is only on their radar because it is mentioned in the TV or radio news. It takes someone showing them how it can work (as this post can do for journalists), and someone helping get them up to speed for wider adoption to take place. I also wonder if some newspapers have policies set up that may make it harder to explore/implement – although that is just speculation.

    Our local county press club just had a speaker talking about the topic. That might indicate wider adoption is coming – if slowly. Maybe those of us in Marketing and PR can reach out to one or more of the journalists we have built relationships with and offer a free coaching session – show them one concrete way that social media can help that specific reporter.

    Cathy Larkin

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