It’s one of the finest of lines to follow — be “real,” interesting, personal and engaging on social media, but keep your journalistic principles intact. Now, research suggests that the pressure to create a personal brand means that many journalists are finding it harder to have a personal identity online.
Communication professor Avery E. Holton of The University of Utah and journalism professor Logan Molyneux of Temple University interviewed 41 reporters and editors from various U.S. publications to write Identity Lost? The Personal Impact of Brand Journalism.”
According to a piece from Journalist’s Resource, the study’s key findings include:
- Reporters are increasingly focusing their attention on developing their professional identities on social media rather than their personal identities.
- Reporters have been asked to make changes to the way they present themselves and their content on social media, including adding their news organization’s logo to their social media pages and providing fewer links to news items that were not published by their employers. They also have been asked to help promote events and partnerships that might cast their news agencies in a positive light.
- Reporters struggle with balancing their professional and personal identities online. They “feel pressure to stake a claim on their beat, develop a presence as an expert in their profession and area of coverage, and act as a representative of the news organization at all times. This leaves little room for aspects of personal identity such as family, faith, or friendship to be shared online.”
- Many reporters said they see social media as a way to demonstrate that they are true experts in their field or subject area of coverage, which they think helps differentiate them from wire reporters and other reporters who do not have as much experience and subject-area expertise.
- There still is uncertainty among reporters and editors about acceptable practices on social media, especially as they relate to personal branding and company branding.
- Reporters are being asked to read and respond to social media posts at all times, which they view as an added burden among a long list of job responsibilities.
- Editors said that they are sympathetic to the branding-related demands being placed on reporters but feel “hamstrung” by the policies and expectations of their news organizations. Few said they monitor their reporters’ social media activities but acknowledged that their news agencies “made examples out of individuals who were not falling in line.
Clearly, the fact that there is still “uncertainty” about acceptable practices on social media adds a tremendous amount of stress to an already difficult job.