Friday, May 18, 2012

Remembering where you are from {journalism philosophizing}

I was realizing the other day I never properly wrote out a response to Mandy Jenkins’ very true post about social media editors and Twitter monkeys. Now that no one is talking about it, it is an apt time to write down my thoughts on that plus some.

We tried a new thing the other day and I sat down and talked to our business blogger (along with a reporter) about Facebook and the free labor we give them. My decided position was to defend Facebook (or at least talk about them from the stance that I make my career off them). This is relevant because I had to remind them that just because I work in Facebook and Twitter, that doesn’t mean I live and die by them.

We were other people before we were social media editors. We were reporters, community organizers, editors, copy editors, designers. We came to this field for different reasons. And the fascinating thing is because I was lucky enough to be in the first “class” of social media editors, many of those who come after us will most likely not have the same perspective.

So who are we really? Who am I? (Man this is going to get existential). Twitter monkeys? Reporters who came to this because we wanted a job?

Here’s why I am here, and why I don’t think this is what I will do forever.

I came to social media because it was fun. I like the web. I like the logistical problem of how to make a story fit into 140 characters and then the conversation it generates. I am an oversharer. Always was.

I am not, by any means, in love with this medium. There are so many challenges, so many problems. Facebook changes that keep you up at night. How to make that media buy work better. When to launch that contest. Why an important story was not RTed. These are things that I do not love.

I love talking to our audience. I like telling stories in unique ways. When I was a city council reporter, I decided I would have to write one less story if I just picked the 5 minor things that happened from each council meeting and write a blurb about each. This is why social media is fun. It’s finding new ways to tell stories. Every day. And it’s not a tweet. I want it to be a story flow, or a Facebook page or an interactive, social video player

We are a conduit. We are air traffic control, customer service, speechmakers, trainers, researchers, reporters, and editors. We are so much more and we could be so much more. The skills my colleagues have baffle and amaze me and most of us rarely get to use them. 

I should, and I want to, build stories that talk with and to our audience. And if that does not have the title “social media editor,” I do not care. 

We have made our own future (and I’m not just talking about social media editors here). We are on the precipice, the edge of journalism (supposedly). We can’t look over the edge with fear. We have to look at it and say, how do we go higher? 

There is so much frustration in trying to change minds and processes. I’ve changed my own mind about how to train and work with reporters. At this moment, I could name 20 things I’m frustrated with.

My commute is my meditation time and lately I’ve spent that time reminding myself why I am driving to a place that frustrates me so often. It’s because this is where I am from. This precipice. This uncertainty.

As aggravating as it is, sometimes it is wonderful and sometimes I get to tell the most beautiful, important, amazing stories with a staff who, sometimes, remembers where they are from.