Are Social Media Jobs Only for the Young?

When newspapers started moving online, the technological gap between those who had grown up with computers and those who had not led to a lot of opportunities for younger professionals to jump in and bring the news into the 21st century. Now that it’s 2012, those same young people may be wondering what they were thinking.

Data compiled from multiple job sites in this infographic showed that the average salary for a social media editor or publisher ranged between $35,000 and $45,000 per year. It’s not bad for a first job, but it won’t go very far in a larger city, where a lot of the journalism jobs are.

Long hours and low pay were just a few of the reasons social media editor Mandy Jenkins said she is leaving The Huffington Post. In an interview with Poynter’s Jeff Sonderman, the 31-year-old journalist described what it was like running Facebook pages and Twitter accounts for The Huffington Post’s D.C. bureau, as well as the Cincinnati Enquirer and TBD.

“It’s so exhausting,” she said. “It’s something that people who aren’t in social media don’t understand. You’re constantly on. You have to constantly be watching streams and you can’t really turn it off, especially if you’re the one person who’s managing an account like that, if you’re not part of a larger team.”

Not everyone would agree that the constant demands on the writer’s attention are necessarily a drain on their time.  Susan Zirinsky, who has 40 years in television production under her belt at CBS News, recently told Social Times that her Facebook and Twitter pages lead to thoughtful discussions and even tips for unsolved cases.  Said Zirinsky, “I’m doing social media because I want us to be part of the world’s discussion about law and justice.”

And as social media becomes more common in the newsroom, the task of managing the networks will likely be shared with multiple people on the staff rather than one stressed-out editor who is fresh out of college. New York Times’ co-social media editor Liz Heron told the Nieman Journalism Lab, “I think my job will probably not exist in five years.”

In the meantime, Jenkins is looking forward to rounding out her skill set with breaking news and other projects when she moves on to Digital First Media. She advises other journalists who are just starting out to do the same. “It’s really good to still know all those old journalism skills,” she said, like “good copy editing, having good news judgment, being able to write a news update that’s longer than 140 characters.”

Image by siamionau pavel via Shutterstock.