Are journalists and influencers two separate groups?

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Jon Stewart, who regularly spoofs real news programs on the Daily Show, was recently named by as the most influential man in America. His route to being the country’s most trusted man is built around his persona as a sarcastic journalist. And that’s not all – his influence might be spreading beyond politics, with the Wall Street Journal calling him an economic force as well.

Stewart’s coronation as the most trusted man in the country got me thinking about the bigger issue of journalists and influencers and if it’s even possible to be both. These two groups have seemingly opposite ideologies and PR professionals face the daunting task of “picking” which group to target. But do they have to? Can someone be an influencer and a journalist?

For the most part, journalists have a social media following because they’re considered objective and provide an balanced look at news and issues. 

Looking at influencers and monitoring their engagement, one thing has become clear; interaction and content are powered by opinion, not fact. It’s not rocket science: people are influencers because they have opinions people trust.

The objective of a journalist is to provide an unbiased and balanced perspective on the news and issues. Providing any sort of opinion is considered unethical and unless it’s on the opinion page, it won’t even make it to print. Journalists write stories their readers should know about and spend time investigating stories that otherwise might be untold.

On the other hand, the duty of an influencer is to provide information to his or her audience based on opinion.  Of course influencers include factual information but the audience is drawn back because they trust this person’s opinion about an issue or brand.

No doubt some journalists could be considered influencers because their scores on sites such as and rank them highly. But these high scores reflect a different kind of influence than Twitter powerhouses like Justin Bieber and Kim Kardashian. Beiber and Kardashian are considered influential because they have a dedicated following of people who likely hang on their every word of advice or endorsement.

People follow Kim Kardashian because they like her, trust her opinion and want to know when she’s given something her stamp of approval.  People are following Anderson Cooper for different reasons. They are interested in the latest news stories and trust he’ll provide dependable, honest and objective perspectives on current events.

It all comes back to Jon Stewart and the level of trust people have in him. The joke is that he’s parading opinion and criticism in a newslike format and as a result, has vaulted to the top of the trust scale in America.

So should a journalist even aim to be an influencer? Should a journalist want his or her readers to be influenced by something he or she covered?

Want to hear more about this topic? Register for “Under the Influence,” a new webinar debuting tomorrow and presented by CisionBlog’s very own Heidi Sullivan and Andrea Weinfurt.

About Cision Staff

Cision's research staff makes over 20,000 media updates to Cision's Media Database each day! For more updates and other thought leadership in the industry, follow @Media_Moves.

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