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Veteran journalists can kick it with social media too

This year’s new crop of young journalists might have been brought up on the intricacies of Twitter and Facebook, but that doesn’t mean they’re the only ones getting in on the social media game.

In today’s newsrooms, veteran journalists are logging on, linking and “liking” all across the Web. But for some reporters and editors, like media blogger Jim Romenesko, this is nothing new. “I’m 58 and I have been on Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, IntoNow and other social media for years,” Romenesko said in an email interview. “I find that they’re good ways to promote my stories and make sure my ‘friends’ see them.”

At the Anchorage Daily News, state and local news editor David Hulen oversees the paper’s social media activity. He recognizes the important role these sites play in news dissemination. “For individual journalists, it can be a fantastic reporting tool – a way to listen broadly to the community and a way to connect with individuals, and also a way for reporters or photographers to distribute information quickly,” Hulen, who has been with the paper for more than 20 years, said in an email interview. “For me personally, it’s become probably the primary way I receive and consume news and information.”

Of course, not all journalists have embraced social media and their reluctance to do so can sometimes paint them in a negative light. “I suspect that old journalists – younger journalists too – who decline to participate in social media are viewed as ‘curmudgeons’ by some bosses, and that they’re not viewed as being 21st-century team players,” Romenesko said.

Hulen explained that a journalist’s attitude toward social media can be influenced by more than just experience level. “I’m not sure it’s necessarily an age thing. I’ve seen a lot of older journalists embrace social media and use it effectively. Others have been slower to do that,” he said. “One thing you hear is that social media is too time-intensive for the benefit – that to use social media you have to stop doing something else. The daily workload on journalists everywhere is heavier now than ever, so something has to give in terms of time. I think that’s a valid point. That’s probably the biggest thing that keeps me from being more active with my own personal social media feeds. People are also concerned sometimes about saying too much via social media – giving stories away to the competition, for example. But at this point, ignoring it isn’t really an option. You just have to try to be smart about it.”

While there are some who think veteran reporters and editors are social media-averse, Romenesko has seen just the opposite. “The stereotyping of older journalists has it that they have to be dragged into 21st-century media, but I have many, many Facebook and Twitter ‘friends’ – I use the words in quotes because I really don’t know most [of] these people personally – [who] willingly got on board,” he said.

For Hulen, social media is simply unavoidable. “The speed of news has really accelerated and it’s just hard to know what’s going on if you’re not using it,” he said. “If you’re a news editor, I don’t know how you function without it.”

–Lauren Cohen

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