Newspaper war raises a question: Who keeps the tweeps?


In the ongoing battle between the Star Tribune and the Pioneer Press, the Strib scored a hit recently when word let out that it had drawn PiPress Capitol reporter Rachel Stassen-Berger across the Mississippi. Adding to the story line was the fact that, along with her regular byline reporting,  Stassen-Berger also wrote for the Political Animal blog at the PiPress Web site, and the @PolAnimal Twitter page.

That raised a question in the twitterverse: What happens when a reporter who authors a respected Twitter page moves to the competition? Can she take the identity with her as part of her personal brand? Can the paper assert ownership? In Stassen-Berger's case, it was agreed that the PolAnimal Twitter account would stay put, because it's an extension of the PiPress, said the paper's political editor Maria Reeve.

"We're in the process of considering internal candidates to succeed Rachel as one of our capitol reporters. That person, along with our other capitol reporters, will be contributing to the Political Animal blog and we'll be determining who will be heading up our PolAnimal Twitter efforts from that team, obviously with help from other team members."

What about a situation in which a reporter's online identity and social network are more independent? I posed that question to Julio Ojeda-Zapata, who covers technology at the PiPress, has a Twitter page with almost 7,000 followers, and who has also authored "Twitter Means Business: How Microblogging Can Help or Hurt Your Company."

"Sad that @polanimal is leaving @PiPress for the Star Tribune, which is definitely a plus for that paper on the Twitter front (among others)," he tweeted on July 31.

In his case, "The @jojeda account is mine," Ojeda-Zapata said. "That said, it's appropriate for companies to issue formal or informal guidelines about how best to use social media, and what is appropriate or inappropriate in this regard. There should also be clarity about who will own and control accounts that might have company names or brands as user names."

His Twitter account "has become a powerful crowdsourcing and relationship-building tool in my reporting work; I can't imagine doing my job without it, and it gets more useful the bigger my following becomes," he said. "This is how many useful exchanges for stories unfold."

A reporter's social media network is also becoming an asset in the job market, Ojeda-Zapata said. "Social media has already merited mentions in local media-outlet job postings."

"This makes perfect sense. Journalists who are adept at social media are, in a sense, adapting old-fashioned sourcing in a new-media era."