The New York Times recently announced the appointment of its very first Social Media Editor. Jennifer Preston, a journalist, author and professor at Columbia University, accepted the position after being in charge of the regional weekly sections for the past two years.

This change comes in response to the recent rise in popularity of social networking and social media sources. As newspapers transition from one-way to two-way media, they are in need of editors to manage these venues.

From a public relations perspective, two-way communication with target publics is a critical component of every objective. Social media outlets allow organizations to build relationships with their publics and respond to their needs. Blogs, Facebook fan pages and Twitter are now recognized as productive outlets for enhancing communication between businesses and their publics and as a way of distributing news. Considering the current economic crisis, it is critical for organizations to fully understand and respond to their stakeholders. Social media outlets are just the ticket.

This progressive move by the New York Times is one giant leap forward for the world of social media and for organizations looking to engage in two-way communication.