A publication of the World Editors Forum


Mon - 23.10.2017

WEF Study Tour: New York Times social media editor Jennifer Preston

WEF Study Tour: New York Times social media editor Jennifer Preston

Jennifer Preston's appointment as social media editor at the New York Times attracted considerable attention when it was announced last year: mainly, because the concept of the role was still new, but also because she wasn't what one might expect in what is often seen as a young, techy position. As she told the World Editors Forum study tour participants today, she had no presence in social media before she took the job, didn't have a smart phone and barely even texted.

There is a clear logic to appointing somebody with a similar profile, however. By learning everything from scratch themselves they will have more of an understanding about what difficulties people may encounter, and they are arguably likely to have more success persuading other non-social media users to change their habits.

Preston said that part of her role when she started the position was as an evangelist, but that this was now over: people are convinced of its value and what she must do is to make sure that journalists have the tools and resources to make effective use of what social media has to offer.

Twitter and Facebook are tools, she stressed, and will only work if used correctly. Her first focus at the paper was Twitter. She explained that she sees three phases in Twitter usage. Phase one is using it to publicise news, phase two is to curate a personal wire service, and phase three, the one she thinks that journalists must focus on now is listening to and engaging the readers.

"Twitter can be an extraordinarily effective tool," she said, and different areas of the New York Times have been using it in various ways to offer their readers up-to-the minute news, sending photos from the Detroit Auto Show or the New York fashion week straight from reporters' iPhones to Twitpic, for example. "We got a lot of social media love from fashion week," Preston said.

The New York Times Facebook page has more than 960,000 fans and Preston hopes for a million by the end of the year. She sees a real opportunity to create communities around niche topics also. Some specialised fan pages, such as Theater, already exist, and Preston plans for many more but said she only helps sections launch a page if she is sure that they will keep it up. "The journalists have to own the page. I warn them that it's like a puppy... you have to be prepared to commit," she said. To encourage reporters and editors curate their page, she said, it is important to make it extremely easy to share articles - nobody wants to do much extra work.

"It's important to provide training," Preston said, and to "create an atmosphere where people are encouraged to take risks."



Emma Goodman


2010-12-01 01:27

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