"Congratulations Twitter" went into overdrive today after news broke that veteran CNN reporter Peter Hamby was joining Snapchat as head of news:
This is mind blowing and insane and awesome MT @DylanByers: @PeterHambyCNN is joining Snapchat to be Head of News | http://t.co/0Ks0rVkAK7"— Ryan Catanese (@rcatanese) April 27, 2015
Mr. Hamby, Politico reported, "will be tasked with bringing credible news content to a social-facing organization that has pull with young audiences and hopes to broaden its appeal."
The hiring of a well-regarded political journalist right before the heat of the 2016 election season may well turn out to be a good move. But let's take a moment to consider what's happened in the past to some other journalists hired by hot tech companies:
Vivian Schiller, Twitter
The NBC News vet was hired by Twitter as head of news and journalism partnerships, but spent only a year in the position. "We believe the new leadership structure will allow for even better synergy and best practice sharing," wrote a Twitter exec in the memo announcing her departure.
Dan Fletcher, Facebook
The former Bloomberg social media director resigned after little over a year of service as Facebook's managing editor. Facebook, he said, "doesn't need reporters."
Neetzan Zimmerman, Whisper
Gawker's one-man traffic factory joined anonymous sharing app Whisper as editor-in-chief in January 2014. He was suspended in October 2014 after a (flawed) Guardian report said Whisper isn't all that anonymous; Whisper CEO Michael Heyward later said an internal review found no wrongdoing. Mr. Zimmerman left the company in January.
Hamish McKenzie, Tesla Motors
Poached from PandoDaily in January 2014, Tesla's "Lead Writer" left the company last month.
Here's the dilemma facing social platforms producing any form of editorial content: They have access to so much content for free that, sooner or later, it becomes difficult to justify paying to create their own. Not to mention, these companies open themselves to controversy every time they inject their own voices into the news, so why risk it?
Each social platform still seems compelled to go through a cycle of hiring, questioning and parting ways with news folks. Some do make it work (see: LinkedIn's Dan Roth) but those cases are rare.