When reporters became brands (and other signs of the impending armageddon)
August 15, 2011
It may seem strange that I am writing a post about the shameless self-promotion that many journalists (especially those of my generation) engage in on a regular basis on the very day that I published my own resume website, but this is a topic where I seem to have a particularly crotchety point of view.
From your “social media presence” to “building your brand,” the buzz words of marketing run rampant through journalism schools and the trade press. There was a day when this sort of self-interested promotion was exercised by only the most vain of television news personalities, but now, it is seen as the only way to make oneself relevant in the changing journalism world.
I have always been a “let my work speak for itself” kind of person and am generally uncomfortable with the level of marketing that journalists are expected to do in the name of becoming a valuable asset to a news organization. I thought, for a time, that this kind of personal branding was a reaction to the steep decline in journalism jobs, but now I see it more as a result of the “cult of celebrity” that has taken over popular culture.
In a world where you can be famous for being famous (or rather for doing very little of any value), it is not surprising that journalism schools are focused on creating their own little celebrities whose personalities, rather than talent, will earn them a job.
I still have hope that there is a market for journalists who are doing good work without seeking to create their own 140 character caricature that can be easily marketed by the ad department. At many of the nations highest pinnacles of journalism – the New York Times, the Washington Post, NBC Nightly News – there are old-school news hounds looking to ply their craft in relative anonymity.
A colleague of mine at school had a class assignment for a course called “21st Century Media.” She was to choose a journalist and ask them about their “brand.” She chose a favorite of mine, Gene Weingarten, a curmudgeonly columnist (and Pulitzer Prize winner) for the Washington Post Magazine. His response, and the column that resulted, pretty well sums up how I feel about the movement.
And while I feel a little concerned that my professional philosophy tends to line up closer with the reporters of my father’s generation, I am comforted by the fact that, for now at least, those are the people who still hold the hiring power.
So, check out the website (still a work in progress, but maybe now that real people can look at it, it will light a fire under me to complete the features on my to-do list) and let me know what you think. As for my “personal brand,” is “Female Gene Weingarten” taken?