4 Questions With Matthew Keys, Deputy Social Media Editor at Reuters

“Four Questions With …” is a monthly series of interviews with different social media and community editors in the news industry.

So, what is it like to be a social media or community editor? What are the job responsibilities and how does one end up landing such a gig? The goal of “Four Questions With …” is to answer some of these questions and to give insight into what is a new and constantly evolving field.

This month, we talked to Matthew Keys, the deputy social media editor at Reuters. If there’s breaking news happening, you can bet Keys has already sent out a tweet about it or is posting about it on his Tumblr. In fact, you probably know him better as@ProducerMatthew.

Keys’ coverage and news aggregation of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, which he did while unemployed, nabbed him a nomination for an Online News Association award for breaking news excellence. (We also profiled Keys back in March 2011.)

Keys joined the Reuters team, led by Anthony De Rosa, as its deputy social media editor in January. Previously, he worked at various California-based news organizations as an online news producer and interactive and mobile director. At Reuters, Keys is mainly responsible with publishing to the news organization’s different social platforms and coaching the staff on best social practices.

Here are his thoughts on the social media, journalism, and what news outlets need to do in order to be leaders in the social field.

EZ: You’ve been at Reuters for three months now. What’s the next big thing you’d like to see Reuters do with social media?
MK: I don’t think more than three months into the future. The tools change so fast that I think anyone who commits to a year-long social media strategy is setting themselves up for failure. And I’ve been a part of newsrooms that have committed to those kinds of strategies.

I don’t think they will outright fail, but they will always play catch-up to competitors. That’s not being assertive, and if you’re not assertive with a social strategy, you’re not going to come out as a leader.

EZ: How do you think the social media team at Reuters is different from other newsrooms?
MK: Reuters is a big corporation that, at least in the digital department, acts a lot like a startup. That’s different from places I’ve worked before that were either completely reckless with their digital approach or too conservative, too stifling.

Reuters gives me and Anthony the space to experiment and work together with our colleagues both inside our newsroom and at other institutions. I like sharing methods, techniques and strategies with other newsrooms. I think being friendly gives us a competitive advantage over a company whose social strategy revolves around total secrecy.

In ten years, nobody’s going to be saying “FOX was the first to do this on social media” or “ABC started social innovation in this way.” But social pundits who are still critiquing the best social practices will use Reuters, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Al Jazeera, HuffPost and other experiment-driven social newsrooms as citations. That’s exciting to be a part of.

EZ: What is the biggest challenge journalism outlets, such as Reuters, face when it comes to social media?
MK: There are two challenges. The first is explaining social media practices to journalists who are new to the world of interactivity on the Internet.

Many journalists use the Internet as a resource for researching sources and stories, and communicating via email and instant message. Social media is a whole different beast that combines research, combing for sources, communication and engagement. That can be tough to teach to someone who may not be completely warmed up to the idea of using Twitter and Facebook beyond personal communication.