Journalists have much to lose if Twitter dies

10 months ago 33

PARIS – Few will lose as much as journalists if Twitter dies, having grown reliant on its endless sources and instant updates despite the dangers and distortions that come with it.

There has been fevered talk of the platform’s imminent demise since billionaire Elon Musk took over in October and began firing vast numbers of staff.

But most journalists “can’t leave”, said Mr Nic Newman, of the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism. “It’s actually a really important part of their work.”

Mr Newman was working at the BBC when Twitter started making waves in 2008 and 2009.

“It was a new Rolodex, a new way of contacting people – fantastic for case studies and… experts,” he said.

But Twitter also became a competitor, replacing newsrooms as the source of breaking news for the public when terrorist attacks, natural disasters or any fast-moving story struck.

“Journalists realised they wouldn’t always be the ones breaking the news, and that their role was going to be different – more about contextualising and verifying that news,” said Mr Newman.

It also meant journalists were tied to the platform for announcements by politicians and celebrities – most famously the dreaded late-night and early-morning tweets from Mr Donald Trump that left hundreds of journalists sleep-deprived throughout his presidency.

‘Tribal melodrama’

The dependency has bred many problems.

New York Times columnist Farhad Manjoo spoke for many in 2019 when he wrote that “Twitter is ruining American journalism” with the way it “tugs journalists deeper into the rip currents of tribal melodrama, short-circuiting our better instincts in favour of mob- and bot-driven groupthink”.

By rewarding the most vehement voices, the platform tends to drown out the majority of the population – both moderates and no...

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