Can journalists also be personalities?

Post by Jason Plotkin

With more movement for our online product to include video, many of the journalists I know are putting themselves on camera. Whether it’s a voice over to use on a video about a shooting or getting on camera to talk about Penn State football, some of the York Daily Record staff are already becoming personalities in the area they are covering. As their humor and quirks begin to appear while being in videos, can this hinder their ability to be taken serious as journalists?

It’s not new for television journalists to project themselves in a not-so-serious fashion at times, like Matt Lauer dressing up as Jennifer Lopez for Halloween. Newspaper journalists, however, have traditionally seen themselves as more serious than their tv counterparts.

Lately, I’ve been tasked with creating introductions for some of the YDR reporters who put themselves on camera and allow their personalities to shine through. These intro videos, which last only 5-10 seconds long, are placed in the beginning of the reporter’s videos that are not considered serious. Below are the three that I have created so far for four of the staffers: Metro reporter Bill Landauer whose blog, Captain Brown Shoes/Black Socks, shows his humorous takes on a variety of topics from the Google car to eating spicy chili. Business reporter Lauren Boyer, who has embraced social media such as twitter (You can follower her @laurenboyer) and uses this in her interactions with the public. Lastly, for the duo of John Clayton and Steve Navaroli, who have been on camera together for more than two years to report on the latest on high school sports for GameTimePa.com. Below are the intro videos:








The questions I raise are these: can newspaper journalists also be personalities? Does this hurt their credibility to do serious stories? What about those reporters who don’t have the ability to shine on camera? Will they be left behind?

I personally don’t have a problem with journalists allowing their humor to come out. I think making a human connection with the public is key to allowing people to trust you. Whether it’s on a serious level, such a relating to someone and sharing a similar tragedy or having them see that you have a goofy personality, I believe this humanizes reporters and photographers and builds a trust that can help us tell a powerful story. In these cases, I believe you can have the best of both worlds.

If Bill Landauer didn’t appear to be a person who can relate and connect with others, he would not have gotten as far as his did in his stories about the Red Lion shooting and military veterans who suffer from PTSD.

If you ever watch Steve Navaroli at a high school swim meet, he is treated like Elvis by the athletes and parents. They praise his stories and he responds with a mix of humor and humility that makes him approachable because he treats these kids with respect as the athletes they are. Without this quality, he would not gotten as much access to retiring York Suburban coach Dick Guyer for a more in-depth piece.

When a young high school student has emergency brain surgery to remove a clot, what parent is going to allow a reporter to spend time with their child on this story? If John Clayton does not come across as a human being, this story does not happen.

And lastly, you can make as many goofy videos as you want about her or laugh at her silly tweets, but serious businesses like Harley-Davidson won’t talk to reporters like Lauren Boyer unless there is something behind that personality which allows them to trust her.

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A picture may be worth a thousand words, but there is often more to say about a great photograph. The York Daily Record's award-winning visual staff offers a peek behind the lens and into the process of capturing, editing and publishing their most interesting photographs, video stories and more.
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