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Jul 27 / King Kaufman

“Newsosaur”: Why journalists have to build their own brand

Alan D. Mutter

Alan D. Mutter

Alan D. Mutter, a former columnist and editor at two Chicago papers who left the newspaper business in the late ’80s for the Silicon Valley CEO racket, writes on his “Reflections of a Newsosaur” blog that building one’s own brand is important for journalists.

And it’s not just for those who produce “happy, glitzy, ditzy stuff,” in the words of Washington Post columnist Gene Weingarten, who blasted the
idea of “branding” in a recent column.

Mutter, who is on the faculty at the University of California-Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism—disclosure: Your friendly blogger is a grad—writes that Weingarten was “dead wrong” to suggest that the only branding that should go on among journalists was the use of a red-hot poker on the butts of any teachers who suggest that young journalists engage in it:

Given the steady fragmentation of the media, the growing paucity of jobs and the nano-ization of freelance pay, it increasingly is up to people who want to be journalists to take affirmative action to promote their work to build audiences they can monetize so they can have satisfying and remunerative careers. This presumes, of course, that said individuals have produced quality work, a subject covered thoroughly in any proper journalism program …

Bill Simmons

Bill Simmons is very good at branding.

In bashing branding, Weingarten wrongly assumed that, as he put it, you have to produce “happy, glitzy, ditzy stuff” to build a following.

In fact, a growing number of individuals and journalistic enterprises have merged serious reporting with the self-publishing and, yes, self-promoting power of the web to produce high-quality journalism while making names, careers and respectable incomes for themselves.

Mutter goes on to give several examples of journalists who have used the power of brand-building to build successful operations while Weingarten’s Post “has been shedding readers and revenues.”

It’s all relevant for sportswriters too, and if you don’t think so, ask yourself who the most prominent and successful sportswriters are. Do they engage in brand-building?