BBC News political correspondent Laura Kuenssberg built up a large following on Twitter with her mix of news, commentary and colour. Her move to ITV News in September has raised questions over who “owns” the almost 60,000 people who follow @BBCLauraK.
The Guardian suggests that “rather than handing her old account login back to the BBC to start from scratch with a new ITV account, the sensible thing to do is to change the name of the account.” But it looks like Kuenssberg will be starting from scratch, with the Twitter handle, @ITVLauraK. Ironically, the announcement was made by Kuenssberg on her BBC Twitter account. Social media creates an opportunity for journalists to interact on a personal level with audiences. Even if an account is branded as a “BBC” journalist, it blurs the traditional barrier between the professional and personal as tweets tend to reflect the personality of the reporter.
It marks a further step in the shift from the institutional to the individual brand of the journalist, identified by the State of the Media report in 2009: Through search, e-mail, blogs, social media and more, consumers are gravitating to the work of individual writers and voices, and away somewhat from institutional brand. Social media provides journalists with a way to connect and interact with audiences in a more personal and direct way than through traditional news products. But there is an unresolved tension between the journalist and the institution, especially on Twitter, which as Jemima Kiss points out, is designed for individuals to communicate.
Media institutions may have to accept that they cannot own the Twitter accounts of their reporters. The journalist may need to switch to a new account, as Kuenssberg will be doing, but they are likely to take their following with them.