When BBC reporter Laura Kuenssberg changed jobs from chief political correspondent for the BBC to the business editor of ITV, she changed her Twitter account to match her new job title. The change would have been a routine usage of social media, if it had not been for one thing - she took her 60,000 followers to the new account.
The situation poses interesting questions about content ownership, social media, and brand journalism. On a professional account, content must conform to the organisation's social media policy. However, Poynter explained that the question of what to do with an account after the journalist leaves has not yet been directly addressed in these guides.
When Kuenssberg changed the name of her profile to reflect her new job, she did more than keep friends updated, as one might on a personal account. She brought over 65,000 followers, who had chosen to receive the BBC's political news from her, to a competitor. The WSJ's Wall Blog questioned her right to bring the followers from her BBC account to her ITV account. Were the followers subscribed to the news updates or the journalist?
Jemima Kiss at the Guardian defended her choice, saying that Kuenssberg had built up her following with her "extra personality, colour and breaking news that [her followers] have come to associate with her style of reporting". From this perspective, Kuenssberg had branded herself as a journalist, and starting a new account from scratch would be counterproductive. Her readers were loyal to her, not the publication.
Certainly many journalists have attracted loyal fans on social media. Nicolas Kristof's Facebook links to his New York Times' articles, but the profile itself is about Kristof and his interests. He links to activist initiatives and interesting articles, as well as responds to reader comments. His account is a textbook example of a journalist who has successfully branded himself. Although his "About Me" section refers to his work at the New York Times, he identifies himself as only as a journalist (unlike Kuenssberg, whose title was BBCLauraK).
Tom Callow expresses his doubts over Kuenssberg's decision on the WSJ's Wall Blog. He explains that many people, himself included, wanted to follow the BBC's Chief Political Correspondent's updates. He goes further to say that followers might be less interested in updates from the ITV's Business Editor. Her Twitter account was clearly branded as an extension of the BBC's reporting (and was listed on as one of its official Twitter accounts here). Her frequent updates pertained to political reporting for the organization, not her personal hobbies and activist causes. However, as there is no BBC written policy for who owns Twitter content, Laura Kuenssberg's Twitter will remain her own - and the BBC will lose 60,000 followers.