The sign made me grin, because it's actually quite true. My only edit? I would have amended it to read, "Coffee and a Newspaper."
Remember when people kept up on current events by visiting the town square, reading the latest edition of a printed publication, and then talking with people about it? The practice isn't dead yet — just highly evolved, thanks to the digital age.
Thanks to social media, mobile devices, and the World Wide Web, the methods of information consumption and communication have drastically changed. But one thing hasn't: The invaluable benefits of putting someone with a journalist's skill set in the role of gatekeeper.
In the interest of full disclosure: I once worked as a newspaper reporter, so as far as I'm concerned, a journalist's skill set fits seamlessly into social media management. Indeed, we routinely see many people with journalism backgrounds taking on the roles of community manager, social media strategist, blogger. Why?
Journalists know how to get people's attention.
They are masters of the anecdotal lede, as well as the hard news hook, because they can't sell papers if they can't get people to read past the first few lines of a story. When writing blog posts or status updates for the social media space, they know how to "sell" the content to achieve the desired outcomes: consumption of the information and, hopefully, desire to react by commenting and sharing.
Journalists know how to cover a beat. As a reporter, you are assigned a topic, or coverage area — or both — to regularly write about. You cultivate sources, perform thorough research, and then share what you find with the public. When you're managing social platforms for a client, the process really isn't that much different.
Journalists know how to edit. Both journalism and social media require you to be creative and compelling — in as few words as possible. Good journalists have mastered this skill. I'm going to bet on the journalist every time in a "tweeting" contest.
They can manage communities. When you're covering a beat as a reporter, you're going to get a lot of feedback — from residents, elected officials, business owners, etc. You need to know how to properly manage this feedback in order to get the information you need without burning bridges or violating laws. Same holds true for the manager of an online community.
They understand accountability. In the social space, you'll get eaten alive if you do little more than promote yourself. And if you don't respond to feedback? Forget it. Journalists know what it's like to demand accountability from their sources, as well as hound them for feedback. Because they've been on that side of the exchange, I think they're more inclined to respond more quickly and meaningfully to feedback on the social web (after all, they know how pesky they'd become if THEY got no response).
So what do you think of people with journalism backgrounds going into social media management roles? What other skill sets do you think work well?