Jennifer Preston, the former editor of the New York Times regional sections, has been appointed as the paper’s first social media editor. Preston will not be handling a new section. The job, which entails coordinating the newsroom’s use of social media, sounds similar to the one Shirley Brady was hired to do when BusinessWeek Online tapped her as its first engagement editor last year. Among other things, Brady has helped the edit staff become more conversant with using Twitter and blogging, as well as working with readers on blog posts for the site. (On Twitter, Brady also pointed to other social media editors, such as LATimes.com’s Andrew Nystrom and Mathew Ingram, who is the communities editor at The Globe and Mail, as other examples of how pubs have been carving out new newsroom duties.)
The New York Times Co. (NYSE: NYT) flagship is full of very active Twitter users. Interestingly enough, the news of Preston’s appointment was first publicly conveyed by NYT deputy managing editor Jon Landman on Twitter. Incidentally, Valleywag pointed out that Preston’s own Twitter updates are private.
I spoke to Landman briefly, and he denied Valleywag’s speculation that Preston’s role will be to clamp down on the newsroom’s after several reporters revealed the details of an editorial meeting a few weeks ago using the microblogging site.
“This isn’t about policing, although that is a small function [of the social editor's role], but as only as a matter of making things consistent. It’s not the main purpose at all,” Landman told paidContent. “It’s really just the opposite of policing. it’s about helping everybody figure out how to use social media as a tool for journalists. A number of people have discovered social media a form for marketing and promotion, but it’s also got explicitly journalistic uses. Some people in our newsroom know and use it to their advantage. Some don’t and could use that know-how.” (Landman’s staff memo on Preston’s promotion is here, via Nieman Labs)
Preston, a reporter and editor for New York newspapers for close to 25 years, is charged with developing new initiatives for the reporters to use, in terms of sharing information and reporting it. This comes as the NYT has been ramping up its social media offerings for its readers, such as the Times Wire, which provides links to the paper