Kara Swisher and Mike Isaac

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Twitter Close to Picking High-Profile Head of News to Make Even Nicer With Media Types


Twitter, which made some sort of financial news yesterday, is close to tapping a person to become its head of news, according to sources close to the search.

Sources said that the San Francisco microblogging service wants an elder-statesperson type — someone who has been around the media game for quite a long time — to legitimize Twitter as a news service and be a friendly liaison to publishing outlets.

It is not, they underlined, a move by the microblogging service to hire journalists to break news, but is more in keeping with CEO Dick Costolo’s frequent statements that Twitter is a tech company that facilitates news distribution.

While some efforts to do this at other Internet companies have failed — see: Facebook, Tumblr — only LinkedIn’s Dan Roth has had clear success at building a unique news presence on a socially focused site.

That much splash does not seem to be Twitter’s aim, as evidenced by an advertisement for the job on its website since May, describing the position:

You will be responsible for devising and executing the strategies that make Twitter indispensable to newsrooms and journalists, as well as an essential part of the operations and strategy of news organizations and TV news networks. You should have a strong vision for the broad potential of Twitter and news, while also being able to rigorously manage and scale the news team’s daily impact.

You will be also Twitter’s representative to the News industry. You will manage Twitter’s partnerships with newsrooms in the United States as well its relationships with journalists. You will be responsible for representing Twitter at industry events.

The job selection is down to a handful of candidates, said sources, and the person chosen will report to Chloe Sladden, its head of media. She describes her job on Twitter as “making Twitter essential to TV, music, sports, news, politics & non-profits.”

Among those Twitter has spoken to about the news job, said sources, is former New York Times staffer Jim Roberts, who has most recently been at Reuters. He arrived there earlier this year to helm its “Next” project as executive editor of Reuters Digital. But Next was scrapped by its new CEO and, while Roberts is still at Reuters, he is expected to leave soon.

Also tapped was Emily Bell, the director of Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia Journalism School and former Guardian news- and media director of its digital content. But Bell has significant commitments in her current job, said sources, and is unlikely to take the Twitter job, if offered.

A Twitter spokesman declined comment.

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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald