While the job of social media editor seems fairly new at most news organizations, it’s been around long enough for some people to outgrow it.
After guiding Facebook pages, Twitter accounts and more since 2008 at the Cincinnati Enquirer, TBD (where we worked together) and The Huffington Post, Mandy Jenkins is moving on.
In many newsrooms social media is becoming a “young person’s job,” with lower salaries and longer hours, she said. Now 31, Jenkins wants to take on other news products and processes. She wrote on her blog Thursday that she will soon leave her position as social news editor in HuffPost’s D.C. bureau for a broader portfolio of innovation responsibilities with Digital First Media.
We talked Thursday afternoon about why.
Jeff Sonderman: You mentioned in your blog post that you were “relieved to get out of the social media editor game.” Why?
Mandy Jenkins: It’s just a time to move on. I’ve been doing this for a while and it’s increasingly becoming a young person’s job. I want to move past that. My goals, in the end, are much loftier than working in social media.
You said social media editor is a “young person’s job,” can you elaborate on that?
It’s becoming that in a lot of newsrooms for lots of different reasons. Those roles are increasingly being filled by people who are not too long out of college, and of course I have many years between me and college.
I think it’s different depending on the place as to why that is. It might be the budget for it isn’t for someone with a larger salary, or they believe a younger person is better at it than someone who is older.
And the relief part for me comes from the fact that it’s so exhausting. It’s something that people who aren’t in social media don’t understand. You’re constantly on. You have to constantly be watching streams and you can’t really turn it off, especially if you’re the one person who’s managing an account like that, if you’re not part of a larger team. It can just be exhausting.
You also mentioned you’re a little scared about the new challenge you’re taking on. Can you explain what it is you’re going to be doing, and why it’s a scary thing to face right now?
It’s scary because social media has kind of become my identity, for better or worse, and I don’t really want to be pigeonholed into that kind of job forever. I have much loftier goals than social media. But it’s scary to get out of it, because that’s what people know me for being good at.
But it’s going to be good to try something different. My role is still taking shape. There are lots of different things associated with it. I’m going to be helping Jim [Brady] and Steve [Buttry] build out all of the digital-first innovations they have in mind. They’re going to be doing a lot more shaping the company into how they want it. It [the job] is still kind of amorphous right now.
Is there an official job title yet?
We haven’t got that yet. We’ve been tossing a few things out there. I want one that doesn’t sound stupid.
But it sounds like it isn’t going to be “social media editor” type title?
Social media and community engagement will obviously be a big part of that, because that’s a big part of what Digital First is trying to do. But it will go beyond that to other digital skills, digital workflows, working on breaking news, working with new products and the individual local properties, too.
You’ve been at HuffPost about 10 months, how has that been and what did you learn?
I certainly sped up the way I do my work. HuffPost is such a quick organization, and working on the politics team in particular, throughout the primaries, so far has been exhausting, but awesome at the same time. We’ve really been able to push how we work together as a team and how we’re using social media to reach a lot of people really quickly. It’s definitely taught me about getting back into breaking news. I think a lot of that is what drove me to get back to doing more aspects of news than just social media.
Do you have any advice for other social media editors out there who might want to make a similar transition some day?
I think not limiting yourself to just being the social media person. It sometimes might mean you have to work even longer hours, but it’s really good to still know all those old journalism skills — good copy editing, having good news judgment, being able to write a news update that’s longer than 140 characters. And also just being more involved with news than just pushing things out and doing engagement.
Before I became a social media editor, I got to be in on news meetings and larger product-development stuff. In a lot of cases with social media you’re being brought in at the end of the process.
Related: Jenkins blogs more about the problem of social media editors being treated as “Twitter monkeys”