Journalists who burn out on the news grind have found plenty of opportunities at tech companies over the past few years.
Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and even Snapchat have all tapped media expats, particularly journalists, to tell their stories and help them cozy up to news organizations. The most recent of these moves came late April, when Snapchat hired CNN political reporter Peter Hamby as its head of news. The company aims to fill its ranks with even more reporters in preparation for the 2016 presidential elections.
Such hires, however, have a mixed track record. Many writing gigs at tech companies turn out to be glorified marketing jobs, not the pure reporting gigs journalists expect. Others suffer from a lack of direction with reporters coming on board before realizing that there isn’t much for them to do.
Here’s an abridged timeline of some of the more high-profile media hires tech companies have made in recent years, and where those hires ended up.
July 2010: Tumblr hires Newsweek’s Mark Coatney
Mark Coatney, Tumblr’s “media evangelist” left Newsweek to help Tumblr, then in its early days, attract other news organizations to the platform. Coatney, who called the blogging platform the “future of publishing” and pushed it within Newsweek, left Tumblr in 2013 to become Al Jazeera America’s svp of digital media. He’s now a digital media consultant.
June 2011: LinkedIn hires Fortune’s Dan Roth
LinkedIn, intent on being more than just the place people go to update their resumes, hired Fortune editor Dan Roth to lead its push into content. Not only does LinkedIn field pitches from big-name business publications, but it has also opened up its publishing platform to millions of content producers. Four years later, Roth is still behind the wheel.
August 2011: Facebook Hires Mashable’s Vadim Lavrusik
Mashable community manager Vadim Lavrusik went from managing Mashable’s Facebook feed to working at Facebook itself. It has been a happy marriage. Lavrusik is now the head of the team that runs Facebook Mentions, a standalone app for celebrities and public figures.
January 2012: Facebook hires Bloomberg’s Dan Fletcher
Dan Fletcher, who became Facebook’s managing editor after a gig as Bloomberg’s social media director, led the Facebook Stories project. Fletcher, however, left after a year, saying that he felt mislead by Facebook, which didn’t actually need reporters.
February 2012: Tumblr hires Chris Mohney and Jessica Bennett
In 2012, Tumblr decided it wanted to write about itself, so it hired BlackBook Media content svp Chris Mohney and Newsweek editor Jessica Bennett to “do real journalism and analysis, not P.R. fluff,” as the company said at the time. Both were fired a year later, and the project was shut down.
June 2012: Twitter hires Washington Post’s Mark S. Luckie
Twitter’s efforts to help journalists get better at using it led it to hire The Washington Post’s social media editor Mark S. Luckie. Luckie left Twitter in early May, after three years on the job.
March 2013: Hubspot hires Dan Lyons
The former Forbes editor behind Fake Steve jobs landed a “marketing fellow” gig at marketing software platform Hubspot, which hired him to write branded content. Lyons, who said he “really missed being a journalist” left Hubspot two years later to join Gawker as Valleywag’s lead writer.
April 2013: Twitter hires The Guardian’s Simon Rogers
Twitter’s first data editor, The Guardian’s Simon Rogers, was hired to uncover the stories behind the mountain of data created by the billions of tweets sent each day. Rogers, who stayed at Twitter for almost two years in the role, is now data editor at Google.
January 2014: Whisper hires Gawker’s Neetzan Zimmerman
Traffic king Neetzan Zimmerman left Gawker to be editor-in-chief of anonymity app Whisper, which hired him to boost the visibility of the content uploaded by Whisper users. Zimmerman left the company a year later, after a dust-up following a Guardian story that Whisper secretly tracked its users.
January 2014: Tesla Motors hires Pando’s Hamish McKenzie
Even a company as forward-thinking as Tesla can have a hard time telling its story. In early 2014, the company hired Pando writer Hamish McKenzie, who had defended Tesla’s Elon Musk for lashing out at the media, to head up is public relations efforts, which in part involved assuring people that Tesla’s cars weren’t prone to catching fire. He stayed at Tesla for little over a year before joining the communications team at Kik.
October 2013: Twitter hires NBC’s Vivian Schiller
Twitter’s first-ever head of News Partnerships was Vivian Schiller, NBC’s chief digital officer and former CEO of NPR. As her title suggested, Schiller’s job was to lead Twitter’s global news efforts, getting more publishers on board and teaching journalists how to use Twitter for their reporting. Her tenure there lasted 10 months.
March 2014: Facebook hires The Wall Street Journal’s Liz Heron
Schiller’s counterpart at Facebook was former Wall Street Journal emerging media editor Liz Heron, whom Facebook hired to build and manage its partnerships with news organizations. Such a role has likely become essential for Facebook as it attempts to convince publishers about its Instant Articles initiative. Heron is still at Facebook.
August 2014: Apple Hires AnandTech’s Anand Lal Shimpi
Veteran tech journalist Anand Lal Shimpi, who launched gadget site AnandTech in 1997, hung up his blogging hat to join Apple last summer. Shimpi, who has been at Apple six months, has been silent on his role at the company, which his LinkedIn page simply lists as “something fun.”
November 2014: Snapchat hires The Verge’s Ellis Hamburger
Snapchat, eager to create its own original content, has made a variety of editorial hires over the last year. Ellis Hamburger, former mobile apps and social media editor at the Verge, was one of the most notable. Hamburger, who frequently covered Snapchat in his reporting (“Real talk: the new Snapchat brilliantly mixes video and texting”) is still at the company.
January 2015: Rap Genius hires The New Yorker’s Sasha Frere-Jones
One of the more head-scratching digital media moves came in January, when lyrics annotation site Genius hired longtime New Yorker pop music critic Sasha Frere-Jones to be its executive editor of music. Frere-Jones said he was attracted to Genius because of its ability to house multiple, often conflicting interpretations of lyrics, which he said enables new kind of criticism.
February 2015: Apple hires BBC Radio 1 DJ Zane Lowe
Apple’s May 2015 acquisition of music-streaming service Beats has yet to bear fruit, but Apple has been keeping busy behind the scenes. Earlier this year, it hired BBC Radio 1 DJ Zane Lowe to lead an unnamed project within the company. The most plausible prediction is that Lowe ends up curating playlists and interviewing musicians for Apple’s own music service.
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