Libby Brittain fuses social media and journalism into career

Libby Brittain

Libby Brittain

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Zoe Newcomb
Editor-in-Chief

“Random: The first word (of many) I remember being fascinated with was ‘galore.’ Heard it on a radio ad; couldn’t grok it. It starts young,” Libby Brittain (’07) tweeted to her some 764 followers on December 22.

An economic history major at Barnard College, Brittain speaks with a vernacular of quirky nerdiness and charming eloquence that can come only from standing directly over the fault between journalism and technology. As she can testify from the several internships already under her belt, an earthquake is a-coming that is about to shake up the way the world views social media.

“The technology industry has grown out of quite literally nothing, and the chance to contribute to the development of something like that is so exciting,” Brittan said.

As editor-in-chief of The Broadview in high school, Brittain had previous experience and understanding of journalism before college, but it was sheer happenstance that she stumbled upon her first internship in the field of new media.

“Truth be told, I wasn’t planning to work at Web start-ups at all,” Brittain said of her first college internship at Outside.in — a news aggregator in Brooklyn that collects links to blogs and websites, working with major publishers to target those link local users. “I actually only had a vague idea of what they were from having grown up in San Francisco so near Silicon Valley. Somewhat serendipitously, [Outside.in is] a really interesting company that sits right at the intersection of journalism and technology.”

Brittain now currently works as a Social Media and Digital Partnership intern at the New York Times, where she has seen firsthand the rapid development of technology in the journalism industry and has found much of her job to be simply exploring the uses of technology as a business tool.

“Learning about ways to integrate future-tense thinking into the news cycle, which essentially exists in the present tense, at the Times has been such a joy,” Brittain said.

A firm advocate of the importance and influence technology will hole in the future, Brittain has found that people working in the same field as her understand the significance of social.

“A lot of people like to give Twitter and Facebook and other social platforms a hard time because of how banal they can sometimes seem, but everyone I’ve encountered in my work really understands how much of a fundamental shift this has been and will be in how people orient themselves toward the web and toward each other — regardless of whether or not x, y, or z company is going to be around in the future,” Brittain said.

Despite a long resume and clear idea of the field she’d like to work in, Brittain has yet to decide exactly what her future career will look like — in part, because it is difficult to foresee where the social media industry will go in the next several years.

Libby Brittain

Libby Brittain

“I plan to do something in the realm of journalism and technology,” Brittain said. “What that will look like exactly, though, remains to be seen.”

Although she’d originally envisioned herself getting a Masters of Business Administration (MBA), Brittain has found a plethora of more “specific and interesting” graduate programs just beginning to develop that connect journalism and technology.

“I do have a sneaking suspicion that in the 5-or-so-year time frame I am looking at for graduate school there will be a whole new angle on graduate education in digital journalism that hasn’t even been created yet,” Brittain said of her future career and education plans.

As the field of social media continues to rapidly expand and become more and more innovative each day, Brittain’s excitement to be apart of the widely influential movement can be summed up by her thoughts walking through the Computer History Museum in Silicon Valley.

“The more smart minds there are working in technology, the more dots there will be to connect, and the more rich and useful all its disparate parts will be in the long run,” Brittain said. “How could anyone want to be in any other industry than this one?”

Brittain’s  Tweets can be found at http://twitter.com/libbybrittain.

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