#Muckedup chat Tuesday: The blurred lines of journalism online

#Muckedup chat Tuesday: The blurred lines of journalism online

If you’ve been at SXSW this past week, you’ve probably heard one or both of these two words: authenticity and brand-building. To blend them into one word, we might simply summarize both ideas as “personality,” an ingredient that has become increasingly necessary to building an audience. Just ask Jenna Marbles.

But while the marketing and entertainment worlds have embraced this concept from the start, the same approach has also become increasingly valuable to those in journalism, benefiting journalists with huge followings like Anderson Cooper’s. Which then begs the following question:

How much can journalists be “ourselves” online?

In the old-school days of journalism, there were really only two positions where it was acceptable to let your personality eke through: columnist (if you were in print) and commentator (if you were in broadcast). It was easy to avoid “injecting self” into your work, if there was only one time you were interacting directly with the public: either on paper, or on-air.

Then along came the Internet; now we’re interacting with the public nearly 100% of the time.

Today’s journos are just as comfortable tweeting their favorite cat gif as they are sharing an article on the hard news of the day. Even in politics -- once considered a minefield of subjectivity where most non-opinion journalists would avoid expressing any commentary -- reporters are less and less afraid to let the public know how they feel about certain issues. It might be nothing more than tacking #epicfacepalm on a retweet, but it still signals an opinion, which was once unthinkable.

In many ways, these displays of authenticity seem to be paying off with a share-happy public that increasingly redefines what’s “TMI” and what’s perfectly acceptable.

But it’s not without consequences. This phenomenon came to a head last year when Nisha Chittal investigated whether journalists who changed their avatars to the HRC logo to show their support for gay marriage were blurring the lines “between personal views and professional objectivity in social media.”

Reddit’s director of communications Victoria Taylor recently blogged for us that one “best practice” for journalists and PR professionals alike on this particular platform might be to maintain separate accounts for one’s personal life, “to keep your personal account strictly for personal use.” Is there any merit to this argument? Or does today’s culture and technology demand that we eschew the old guard of journalism and its rules, and embrace new ones?

We’ve discussed the notion of “oversharing” once before in a #muckedup chat, but with a focus on the public’s participation. This time, let’s take a look at the communicator’s role. Join us on Twitter for another chance to get #muckedup on this topic, this Tuesday (tomorrow), March 11 at 5 p.m. PST/8 p.m. EST.

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