The New York Times to Kill Social Media Editor Position

Jennifer Preston says role “can’t belong to one person — it needs to be part of everyone’s job”

The New York Times plans to eliminate its relatively new social media editor position in early 2011, Poynter.org reports.

Jennifer Preston, who took on the role in 2009, will return to reporting with a new beat: social media.

“Social media can’t belong to one person — it needs to be part of everyone’s job,” Preston told Poynter. “It has to be integrated into the existing editorial process and production process. I’m convinced that’s the only way we’re going to crack the engagement nut.”

Preston said she recommended as much to Times managing editor Jill Abramson in August, in part because people who work at the Times now see the reportorial value in Facebook and Twitter – even if using the word “tweet” is frowned upon. They get it.

“At the beginning there was some resistance among my colleagues about using these tools,” Preston said. “What did I hear at the very beginning? ‘Twitter is all about what people are having for lunch.’ Now, no one says that anymore."

There are 93 New York Times staffers listed on the Times official Twitter feed, for example. (When it comes to Twitter, two reporters in particular — Brian Stelter and David Carr — have become something of evangelists-by-example within the Times newsroom.)

The move by the Times is an unusual fit of zigging when others zag. As Poynter points out, social media editor positions have been popping up in newsrooms across the country. The USA Today, for example, just hired one.

“For [the Times] to really, truly sustain and scale the use of the social media tools,” Preston said, “we need to have our desk and department heads and section editors owning the social media channels and managing the conversation that’s taking place.”