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Who owns the Twitter brand after the journalist’s left?

This is something I’ve been thinking about for a while – ever since reading about @polanimal – former reporter for US newspaper the Pioneer Press, Rachel Stassen-Berger, and the question of what would happen to the Twitter account she cultivated while in this role, after changing titles.

It sounds straightforward: you’re a reporter, you use a Twitter account for your work, so when you leave that job, you’ll no longer use that account.

But the ‘social’ element of social media and networking makes me think otherwise. Using Twitter as a journalist is infinitely more valuable (in my humble opinion) when treated like a community. Admittedly my account is focused on my work, but many of the conversations I have using it come about from adding an element of the personal to the professional.

Others may follow a journalist because of the area they report on, but they’ve also chosen to follow an individual, a personality and not just the news organisation that this journalist works for.

I’m all for news organisations encouraging their journalists to use sites such as Twitter as part of their work and interaction with their readers/viewers, but are these organisations going to have to consider harder and faster rules for what happens to Twitter accounts and similar when the journalist that has built them up (arguably on the employer’s time) moves on?

Big brands, big media groups are increasingly being represented by the individuals that make them up, in a fractured, multi-platform way. There are going to be some interesting (and perhaps bumpy) times ahead when it comes to dealing with the positive and negative side effects of this.


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