Social Media Editors and the Future of Journalism

Project: Research

Project Details


Over the past ten years, many news organisations in the United States have created a new position within the newsroom, the social media editor (SME). SMEs can take on a wide variety of titles (including community manager, digital editor, engagement editors, and so on), but what they all share is a particular, and particularly new role in the newsroom. Specifically SMEs are intermediaries "between audience data and the newsroom" and in this way they occupy a liminal space between the journalism and marketing departments in the newsroom (Ferrir-Conill & Tandoc, 2018). Typically, their job includes repackaging news stories for distribution on social media, tracking social media engagement with these stories, responding to and moderating reader comments on social media, training fellow reporters on how to package stories and interact with users for maximum engagement, and briefing newsroom leadership on the latest social media engagement metrics regarding the reach and impact of editorial output. In this sense, SMEs are "double intermediaries." They work at the nexus between, on the one hand, news consumers and journalists in newsroom and also at the nexus between the marketing and editorial departments within the organisation. The ambiguous position and role of SMEs (are they doing journalism? marketing and public relations? both? neither?) and their increasing profile the newsroom together raise a series of important questions: How are tensions between professional values of journalism and economic pressures manifested in social media editor positions? What editorial tasks are part of social media editor roles and in what ways do they differ from other newsroom positions? What professional values are held by social media editors and how do they differ from traditional journalistic values? What marketing tasks are part of social media editor roles and how do the relate to the editorial aspects of their role and their professional values? How is success defined and measured for SMEs?
Effective start/end date1/08/185/02/23