A study of how social media editors do their jobs is the winner of the inaugural ACES Award for Research on Editing.
The award honors academic research about story editing, headline writing and other topics related to editing.
The winning paper is “Social Media Editors in The News: A Survey of Roles and Functions” by Tim Currie of University of King’s College in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Currie received a $100 prize and complimentary registration to the ACES 2013 national conference, April 3-6 in St. Louis.
Currie presented the research at the annual conference of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication. This year’s gathering took place Aug. 9-12 in Chicago.
"It's a real honor to receive this award," Currie said. “It's important that ACES acknowledges and supports research into new practices."
Currie’s survey of social media editors at Canadian news organizations found that these journalists must balance the demands of their newsrooms and the expectations of their readers, who expect online interaction. The study found that social media editors are increasingly visible and influential in newsrooms, though some still feel they are treated as “Twitter monkeys.”
“This greater audience role challenges the traditional gatekeeping function of news editors, as website traffic data and reader comments influence the types of stories journalists cover and the manner in which they cover them,” Currie concludes. “Canadian social media editors envision a new partnership with the audience but, at present, struggle to identify how that partnership will work.”
Among Currie’s other findings:
• Facebook and Twitter are the leading platforms used by social media editors, with LinkedIn and Instagram less popular.
• Besides tweeting and posting to Facebook, these editors are involved in training colleagues, leading online chats with readers and reaching out to bloggers in their communities.
• Social media editors “likened their role that of an emissary or missionary bringing new ideas to the newsroom.”
• Social media editors have “a high level of journalistic ability and skill dealing with people.”
The research award is part of an effort by ACES to connect academic research to the daily work of editors. A call for papers for next year’s award will go out this fall.
“ACES places a high value on research,” said Teresa Schmedding, president of ACES. “We can't afford to keep doing things because that's the way we've always done them. Research is the key to helping practicing journalists figure out where to direct resources.”