Victor Wynne

Do journalists need to be brands?

Elizabeth Spiers:

This is all very inside-baseball, but frankly, if you’re reading an article titled, “Do Journalists Need Be Brands?” you’re the kind of person already has strong opinions on the topic and knows who both Haberman and Lorenz are, so I’m just going to unapologetically lean into media navel-gazing here. And I’m going to take a side: I believe Lorenz is correct, and Haberman’s repulsion by this idea is partly a function of the fact that despite having a high-profile book deal and a constant stream of TV appearances, she believes that she is not branding herself, and that her work is just doing all of this on its own. She also has no idea what it’s like to face the kind of job insecurity people Lorenz’s age do, and barring some Jayson Blair-level scandal will never ever be fired or laid off by the Times. She is also well paid, which is not true of everyone who works at the Times, especially on the editorial side.

This is also a function of how both of them got to the Times in the first place and how they view their own successes. Haberman’s father is legendary Times journalist Clyde Haberman, and her mother is a high profile PR person who is well connected in media herself. Haberman is an award winning journalist whose abilities might be extraordinary, but we don’t know if her trajectory would have been different if she had to knock on the front door with an unsolicited resume — and neither does she.

Lorenz did not grow up without privilege (Greenwich, Connecticut is not Slapout, Alabama1) but she moved into journalism from a digital background that wasn’t journalism, and does not have the typical trajectory of a Times journalist, or the Ivy League credentials they say are not important but they absolutely pay attention to. Ergo, Lorenz was regarded as a bit of an outsider internally, and some people tend to be dismissive of young women who cover beats they regard as lesser.

In total agreement with Elizabeth’s take on this one. If anyone needs to “sit down” it’s Haberman. How is there even a question in the year 2022 whether or not journalists need to brand themselves? Of course they do.

  1. In case you’re wondering, Slapout, AL is a real place. Pa Spiers lives there, and it’s tiny. It’s supposedly called Slapout because it had exactly one store for a long time, and to the chagrin of the locals, they were always “slapout” of everything.