Marginalia, Graduate Blog

The line between personal and professional in journalism

Katie Kather

Welcome August!

Welcome August!

I’ve been thinking a lot about social media. What is appropriate? When are you sharing too much? What is the line between personal and professional in the journalism business–assuming there is one?

I have long been an over-sharer, even before social media came around. One of my more poetic friends told me it was like my mouth was falling down the stairs. But lately, I’ve been trying to change my blabbermouth ways.

I think about this all the time, but lately it seems there is always something in the news causing me to think even more.

Earlier this week (or was it late last week?) a TV reporter was fired for entries on her personal blog that she later said were supposed to be “snarky.”

She said she had gone bra-less during a live broadcast, is better when she has no idea what she’s talking about, refuses to do stories on old people, and pretends to keep recording when people she’s interviewing are boring her.

Now, where to begin…

Remember my question about the line between personal and professional when you’re a journalist? Yeah–there isn’t one.

This reporter posted things about her professional life on her personal blog because as they used to say when I was in management, “who you are in life is who you are at work.” And vice versa. As a journalist, you just can’t separate the two unless you avoid social media altogether.

As quasi-famous to actually-famous figures, journalists don’t have the luxury of having a personal anything.

I know more than one young reporter who has a personal Twitter account and a professional Twitter account, and I don’t think it works. I don’t know about anyone else, but I don’t have the energy to maintain two personas. Besides, readers want to connect to a personality not an empty storefront of a social media account.

So what is the answer? It’s really not as complicated as you might think: just be cool.

I’m not saying we all have to be super professional all the time, but some of us (including me) do need to grow up a little. The social rules that exist in society like “think before you speak” apply to social media as well.

So go ahead and be funny. Be snarky. Be a real person. But not if that means outing yourself as ageist, inappropriate, and rude in a job that requires exactly the opposite.

More reading on the topic

WSJ

HuffPost

Time

NPR

Have you read anything interesting on this topic, maybe a different take? Tweet me the link @journalismMA.

The line between personal and professional in journalism

I’ve been thinking a lot about social media. What is appropriate? When are you sharing too much? What is the line between personal and professional in the journalism business–assuming there …

Journalism MA Katie Kather, kathryn.kather@loop.colum.edu
600 S. Michigan Ave. Chicago, IL 60605