Reporters As ‘Brands’

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It was bound to happen… Reporters are becoming brands.

The New York Observer just did a fascinating piece about this phenomenon taking hold at The New York Times, the newspaper perhaps most unlikely to allow its own reporters to develop personas beyond the institution.

But it’s happening. Thanks to the blogosphere, reporters at the NYT — and elsewhere — are stepping beyond their Mother Ships to create their own followings. The article explains:

Perhaps no one in the current New York media landscape has taken this anxiety further—or transformed it to greater effect—than Julia Allison, the 25-year-old former AM New York/current Time Out dating columnist and Star magazine “editor-at-large” who’s combined Paris Hilton’s love for the camera with an Ann Coulter’s willingness to be quoted saying anything, anytime, and Ayn Rand’s ruthless brand of self-preservation.

“I looked around, and I saw that the people who were getting assignments and getting paid really nicely for it were names. They were brands,” said Ms. Allison. “All journalists are journeymen. You might have a P.R. team you work with at your magazine that’s taking care of the magazine, but who’s taking care of YOU? Ultimately, you’re replaceable if you’re not a brand.”

Ten years ago, most journalists bristled at the description of themselves as “brands”; they probably would have agreed with Financial Times columnist Lucy Kellaway, who wrote in 2000 that personal branding is “distasteful for being blatantly ambitious, sneaky and superficial.”

Apparently that distaste is gone. And high time, IMHO.

Reporters who do great work should become their own brands. Good for those who actively market themselves. Why grind out story after story and wait for arbitrary layoffs to nip your promising career?