Posted in journalism

Journalists and Branding: Good Idea Or Bad?

By Benét J. Wilson, DJTF co-chair, Online Managing Editor-Business Aviation, Aviation Week Group

I found an interesting conversation on Facebook started by NABJ Student Rep candidate Marissa Evans on this interesting column from Washington Post columnist Gene Weingarten on why he thinks journalists branding themselves is a bad idea.  I must respectfully disagree with Mr. Weingarten.  He seems to be living back in another time — and I say this as a journalist who began her career using a typewriter.

NABJ Presidential candidate Charles Robinson made an interesting point during a candidates’ forum sponsored by the Washington Association of Black Journalists and the NABJ Baltimore’s Association of Black Media Workers.  Robinson noted that while all the tools and technology is good, sometimes the “J” in journalism is missing in the discussion.

And I agree 100% with Robinson.  But in this day and age of terms including search engine optimization, content and eyeballs, to name a few, journalists now more than ever need to stand out.  We are competing with bloggers, citizen journalists, aggregators, curators and any other number of platforms that are battling for readers’ attention.

The fact is that along with strong journalism skills, you do need the brand to bring the eyeballs to the website that writes our checks. I am one of a half a handful of journalists covering the aviation industry.  My brand — Aviation Queen — was created for me by the industry I write about.  I stand out anyway, and this brand helps me stand out even more.  I love where I work and have no plans to leave.  But I know if something were to happen, I would be able to leverage my skills — and my brand — to get that next job.

At the beginning of my career, the focus was on the writing and reporting.  You chased that story, you wrote it, you got your byline and moved onto the next one.  Those days are gone.  Now writing and reporting is only part of the job.  You also have to do podcast, shoot photos and video, do social media, find creative ways to illustrate data, to name a few.  If you’re doing it the right way, your brand develops.

These days, Mr. Weingarten, your brand plays a big role in getting that next job or even starting your own thing, whether we like it or not.  Thanks to Mindy McAdams of Teaching Journalism Online for pointing me to how Steve Buttry of TBD.com used Storify to show the reaction to Weingarten’s column.  And Buttry also links to Leslie Trew McGraw’s paper on journalists and branding.  She’s the Leslie identified in Weingarten’s column. I say don’t hate the player-hate the game!

Advertisements

Author:

Home of the National Association of Black Journalists's (NABJ's) Digital Journalism Task Force

4 thoughts on “Journalists and Branding: Good Idea Or Bad?

  1. Quite frankly, I believe Weingarten embarrassed himself with that column (er, rant) about branding. He put on display for the world an ignorance steeped in a near-narcissistic belief that his precious realm of holier-than-thou journalists have been somehow dishonored by the evolution of media toward a more open and inviting industry.

    Perhaps Mr. Weingarten should have chatted with Mr. Aaron Brown, former NEWS anchor for CNN, I did. The year was 2006. Mr. Brown was raving mad about the devolution of media, calling it “infotainment.”

    Unlike Mr. Weingarten, Mr. Brown didn’t blame j-schools nor “new media” and most assuredly not “bloggers” (who were seen as pajama-wearing opinionated ranters on the worldwide web rather than serious news-breaking journalists). Mr. Brown recognized that media, all on its own, decided to play to the Jerry Spring audiences.

    Long before digital media entrepreneurship and the notion of “branding” ever became an issue for j-schools, legacy media had already introduce the point.

    Had Mr. Weingarten chatted with Katy Couric, Suzanne Malveaux, Soledad O’Brien and other well-respected TV news anchors, he might have been informed about the careful crafting of their images. Those are just a few women journalists, but men are in the same game. The same can be said for print reporters and the specialty beats for which they become known; the same can be said for columnists and photographers.

    Branding is part and parcel of one’s reputation. When Leonard Pitts writes, before I sit down to read his prose, I already have an anticipation of receiving a high degree of knowledge and insight into the subject matter. I would not feel the same about Bill O’Reilly when he offers his “Talking Points.”

    Today, new digital tools provide a lower barrier to entry for media entrepreneurs seeking to compete in the media marketplace. A journalist who begrudges such opportunity should take care that his perspective isn’t derived from a place of privilege that isn’t afforded to many, and likely won’t exist for the vast majority of up-and-coming journalists seeking to both practice the craft and capitalize upon opportunities to capture audience share and compete in the marketplace of ideas.

  2. Quite frankly, I believe Weingarten embarrassed himself with that column (er, rant) about branding. He put on display for the world an ignorance steeped in a near-narcissistic belief that his precious realm of holier-than-thou journalists have been somehow dishonored by the evolution of media toward a more open and inviting industry.

    Perhaps Mr. Weingarten should have chatted with Mr. Aaron Brown, former NEWS anchor for CNN. I did. The year was 2006. Mr. Brown was raving mad about the devolution of media, calling it “infotainment.”

    Unlike Mr. Weingarten, Mr. Brown didn’t blame j-schools nor “new media” and most assuredly not “bloggers” (who were seen as pajama-wearing opinionated ranters on the worldwide web rather than serious news-breaking journalists). Mr. Brown recognized that media, all on its own, decided to play to the Jerry Springer audiences.

    Long before digital media entrepreneurship and the notion of “branding” ever became an issue for j-schools, legacy media had already introduced the point. There are many “branded” journalists in media.

    Had Mr. Weingarten chatted with Katy Couric, Suzanne Malveaux, Soledad O’Brien and other well-respected TV news anchors, he might have been informed about the careful crafting of their images. Those are just a few women journalists, but men are in the same game. The same can be said for print reporters and the specialty beats for which they become known; the same can be said for columnists and photographers.

    Branding is part and parcel of one’s reputation. When Leonard Pitts writes, before I sit down to read his prose, I already have an anticipation of receiving a high degree of knowledge and insight into the subject matter. I would not feel the same about Bill O’Reilly when he offers his “Talking Points.”

    Today, new digital tools provide a lower barrier to entry for media entrepreneurs seeking to compete in the media marketplace. A journalist who begrudges such opportunity should take care that his perspective isn’t derived from a place of privilege that isn’t afforded to many, and likely won’t exist for the vast majority of up-and-coming journalists seeking to both practice the craft and capitalize upon opportunities to capture audience share and compete in the marketplace of ideas.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s