Via an internal memo and external tweet from Deputy Managing Editor Jon Landman, The New York Times appoined their first Social Media Editor today. That appointee is Jennifer Preston, who has spent the last twelve years as a reporter, editor and newsroom manager at The New York Times, and most recently oversaw the regional weekly sections.
Preston, who’s first move in her new position was making her Twitter account public, will work full-time on expanding the use of social networks and publishing platforms to improve the Times’ journalism and deliver it to readers.
The move comes a week after the Wall Street Journal drew attention for a social media memo to staffers on guidelines for editorial use of Twitter and Facebook. The Times, which has similar (but slightly less rigid) policies in place, has shown leadership in using social media to crowd source stories. In addition, it has also countered its competitor’s “Journal Community,” with TimesPeople, its own social network.
It also isn’t the first newspaper or print outlet to create this type of position. The Los Angeles Times named Andrew Nystrom (@latimesnystrom), Senior Producer of Social and Emerging Media in March of this year. Shirley Brady has also been working within a similar role at BusinessWeek for some time as Community Editor.
As David Kaplan notes within his piece on the news for PaidContent (which included a quick interview with Landman), the new role likely has less to do with blocking twitter use (as Gawker insinuates) and more to do with encouraging staffers to utilize social media for reporting on stories. In addition, there is a plethora of opportunities for the Times to leverage Twitter, Facebook and other sites to increase reader engagment. Imagine a destination page under the New York Times domain that essentially did what MuckRack does with all journalist’s tweets, but did it only for reporters and editors writing for the Times. TimesPeople could be combined with that to create some kind of morphed social network / tweet destination site – TimesTweets anyone? How about standardized NYT’s hashtags on breaking news or “ask the editors” tweet chats?
However, we shouldn’t get too excited. One can’t help to wonder if naming Preston (with decades of editorial experience) over some outside canidate with social media experience is the best option. While the New York Times often has the best intentions in mind when it comes to evolving their digital strategy, their tactics aren’t always sound.