Amidst the many changes around and within journalism, the journalist — as an actor in creating the news — is becoming more recognizable, identifiable, and individual. For instance, I'm "friendsâ€ with New York Times reporter Nicholas Kristof. (Okay, it's on Facebook, but still). Kristof himself is a media decathlete: In addition to being a NY Times columnist, he has a blog on nytimes.com, updates his Facebook status daily, posts tidbits of news to Twitter — and all of this relates and refers to his "officialâ€ journalist work as a journalist for the Times. He also engages with his readers in comments, carrying on conversations about his posts. These different "touch pointsâ€ — a term that I hate, but which seems appropriate here — allow him to test assumptions, get quick feedback, and share information that may not fit into the framework of an official column. They also gives readers ways to get more engaged with topics they care about, providing a variety of avenues for participation. Finally, they give readers more insight into the reporters themselves — their interests, their informal voices, their senses of humor.
Is insight good? Is "participationâ€ good?
I don't know. This humanization of news sources isn't totally new, either. There have always been celebrity journalists like Kristof, and their greater exposure ensures the accrual of an identity more extensive than a mere by-line. The difference is that this also happening at much more granular levels. My friend Leslie is a reporter for the Modesto Bee. She uses Twitter to post meta-news (@BeeReporter), and created a Facebook page (ReporterAlbrecht) to foster a community around her beat. At the Lawrence (Kansas) Journal-World, the sports reporters record podcasts, comment on articles, and maintain blogs. I personally love the new avenues of participation, but I wonder what the effect of all this will be. News has become more of conversation. Reporters are extending their identity into the public sphere, becoming distinct as individuals. Does this increase the value, authority, credibility, reach, or depth of the subsequent journalism?