Journalism and Personal Branding

Today, I came across an interesting article in my Google Alerts, entitled, “Ben Parr, romantic swing dancer: Google now highlights individual authors in its search returns“. If an article has your name in it, you’re going to read it, of course. The article is about a new Google Search feature that highlights authors in search results. Soon search results will have the pretty faces of journalists hovering to the right of search. Megan Garber (the author of the article) uses it as a starting point to discuss the role of personal branding in journalism, something that has increased exponentially as the social web has blossomed. I’ve heard the same things from fellow colleagues, especially more seasoned journalists: the journalist shouldn’t be the story. And personal branding is ALL about you being the story. I come from a different school though — I studied entrepreneurship, political science and science in human culture at Northwestern, not journalism — and have never felt uncomfortable being part of the story. I personally believe that it actually can improve journalism and storytelling by providing a deeper human connection between you and the reader. I know that my Twitter account has been essential to garnering feedback on my stories and crafting my art, and I know I’m not the only journalist to use it as a tool for crowdsourcing ideas for stories. The truth though is that it doesn’t matter whether personal branding is helping or hurting journalism, because reputation/personal brands are here to stay in the journalism world. So long as social media proliferates, so will the need for journalists to build a following. The ones who don’t embrace the era of the branded journalist will suddenly find themselves losing out on jobs against social-savvy candidates with bigger followings. It’s not fair, but that’s one of the consequences of the social web.
  • Eleanor Pierce

    My problem is that so many journos (and young, aspiring journos-to-be) are allll about personal brand, all about their byline, and not so much about reporting. Not so much about the story. The work needs to matter.

    (steps off old lady curmudgeon box)

  • briantrich

    Interesting discussion indeed — something that often comes up with the Associated Press, where many writers don’t even get a by-line when their work is syndicated. It simply says “By the Associated Press” or something of the sort. It’s definitely an ego gutshot to have your name exempted from the work you’ve done, but at the same time, it is the purest form of journalism.

    I studied journalism in college and journalism is all about telling stories…not creating a connection between the reader and the writer. A good journalist creates connections between his/her sources and the readers, while leaving his/her bias and opinion/analysis out of the story to the greatest degree possible. By branding yourself as a journalist, rather than working for the general good of your employer and/or the profession, you’re taking the spotlight away from the story (or at least sharing the spotlight) and as you mention, in terms of traditional journalism, that might as well be a mortal sin.

    There’s a lot to be said for a journalist with no ego, a sense of humility and a dogged dedication to his/her work. One who doesn’t care about the ego boost that comes from having your name on a front page story, but who instead cares about the benefit that front page story provides to society thanks to the quality of reporting provided within.

    I’m somewhere in the middle, as I’d imagine most people are. I want to be recognized for my work, but unless I’m a freelance writer, I don’t want to become some sort of celebrity who thinks a story is great because I wrote it, rather than because of the quality of the story itself. When you finish reading an excellent piece of journalism, you should feel the same feeling that you got when you finish a three hour movie that seemed to only last 30 minutes. The reader should become so immersed that they don’t care about the author. They only care about the story.

  • Anonymous

    I think you’re right. There’s no denying that the journalism industry is moving more freelance and more personal brand-focused every day. Do you think Google+ will be the main place where journalists build their portfolio presences/brands soon?

  • HANS

    hi can i have an google+ invite