New York Times Hiring 'Social Media Editor' To...Do Something

The New York Times is charging face-first into the digital age! They're appointing a "Social Media Editor." It's Jennifer Preston, former editor of the recently-folded Regional Sections! Could this be the beginning of the end of the Golden Age of NYT Twittery? [UPDATED below]:

We know that the paper's been looking to crack down on its wanton employee Twitterers ever since they went and Twittered away all the secrets of a newsroom meeting (in the old days it would have taken at least five minutes longer to have all the details sent to Romenesko). So Preston's job could include shutting down the free musings of the paper's more voluble reporters. Preston herself has a private Twitter page. ISN'T THAT FANCY? A chilling vision of David Carr's future?

But! Two points: One, they haven't actually said what the fuck a "Social Media Editor" does, so this is speculation. And two, the first announcement of Preston's new gig came on Jonathan Landman's Twitter.

Landman, you're fired.

UPDATE: Here's the internal memo on Preston's new gig, via Nieman Lab, which is just vague enough to confirm everyone's worst fears, whatever they may be:

To the Newsroom:

One of the bracing things about this topsy-turvy media landscape is that you can wake up one morning and find yourself actually doing something you never thought you'd even think about. Take Jennifer Preston. In 25 years in the news biz, she's been plenty of things: Reporter (cop shop, City Hall, Albany, etc.), editor (political editor, section editor, administrative editor, etc.) and even circulation marketing manager (at New York Newsday). But still, did she ever think she'd wake up one morning as "social media editor"?

No, she didn't but yes, she did. That morning was this one.

Jennifer is our first social media editor. What's that? It's someone who concentrates full-time on expanding the use of social media networks and publishing platforms to improve New York Times journalism and deliver it to readers.

Think of Twitter. Did you know that The New York Times is No. 2 on the Twitterholic.com Top 100 Twitterholics based on Followers? (Behind Ashton Kutcher but ahead of Ellen DeGeneres.) Don't care? OK, but the point is that an awful lot of people are finding our work not by coming to our homepage or looking at our newspaper but through alerts and recommendations from their friends and colleagues. So we ought to learn how to reach those people effectively and serve them well. At the same time, more of us are using social networks to find sources, contacts and information. Like this guy.

Jennifer will work closely with editors, reporters, bloggers and others to use social tools to find sources, track trends, and break news as well as to gather it. She will help us get comfortable with the techniques, share best practices and guide us on how to more effectively engage a larger share of the audience on sites like Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, Flickr, Digg, and beyond.

A big part of her job will be keeping everyone up to date with the rapid developments taking place on the social media front. She will work closely with social media whizzes in the newsroom and other departments, including Soraya Darabi in marketing, Jake Harris in software and Heather Moore in comment moderation, on how news feeds work and how best to be part of the online conversation. She will also work closely with Dawn Williamson, Derek Gottfrid and others involved in building our own social network, Times People, as we continue to use crowd-sourcing techniques to increase the reach and quality of our work. She will work with Craig Whitney and others to ask and answer the many tricky questions that arise in this context: What is the proper balance between personal and professional? What best practices should we adopt or adapt? How can we do the new stuff in a way that honors the old stuff? Etc.

In a significant way Jennifer will apply the collaborative techniques of social-networking to her own job, because of course we all need to figure this out together.