Has Twitter caused journalism to turn narcissistic?

The very fine Boston Globe columnist Joan Vennochi recently condemned Twitter content, particularly the postings of the many journalists now using the platform, as “depressingly self-centered.”

Journalism used to be about looking out your window on the world and telling people what you saw and then getting out on the street as fast as possible to report on what others saw. Now, it also involves looking in the mirror and telling the world, here’s some miscellaneous information about fabulous me. I’m in New Hampshire! I’m watching Mitt Romney! His hair is frozen in place and so are my toes! More later!

No doubt that the medium enables and invites even the most serious content creators to post any random thought at any given moment. And some do. But in many cases the culprits are the same alleged “journalists” we would see on TV (if we still got our news there) chatting away and making small talk while serving up fluff instead of conducting any real reporting.

Granted there’s no shortage of “who cares” updates. Details that are less journalism than journal. Even regrettable mistakes made in haste.

Not all journalists on Twitter post narcissistic, self-serving content.

But take a look at the journalists who know how to use Twitter – Jennifer Preston of the New York Times or her colleague assistant managing editor Jim Roberts come to mind – and you find reporters who make great use of the medium. Both of those journalists use Twitter to keep followers informed of important stories, to share useful and valuable content, and to call attention to articles from writers other than themselves. I often find interesting and relevant content from sources other than the Times by following Preston.

As a voracious consumer of news I consider Twitter the greatest contributor to journalism since Edward R. Murrow. In an era when most news organizations can’t afford foreign bureaus, it provides access to instant updates and content that reporters like Al Jazeera’s Ahmed Shihab-Eldin and NPR’s Andy Carvin use to make them better reporters. It enables ordinary citizens in parts of the world most journalists can’t get to, to provide updates and alert news organizations to everything from disasters to injustices.  And, in the hands of smart, social media-savvy journalists who understand that content has to go to the reader, not necessarily the other way around, it’s an invaluable means of educating and enlightening the community.

Joan Vennochi is right in criticizing reporters who abuse the medium with incessant personal updates. But it’s important we don’t confuse the medium with the messages we sometimes find there.

 

 

 

15 comments
neskurosawa
neskurosawa

@ase Has it not always been that way? Then again people who seem to be using #Twitter are not born journalists, so don't worry & be happy!

TheOtherRizman
TheOtherRizman

@ase Holy shameless narcissistic self-promotion, Batman! ;>) (see next-to-last paragraph mention, class!)

JeffShattuck
JeffShattuck

One of my favorite philosophers, Eric Hoffer, said journalism was not creative, it was just a re-telling of the facts. I agree with that. So when journalists go out on their own -- on Twitter or any other medium -- to interpret the facts, they are no longer journalists.

To condemn Twitter content as a journalist, with no real basis for the condemnation, is to not be a journalist. Not saying it's good or bad, it's just not journalism.

Further, Twitter is not journalism. It's a real-time feed of the world, which is cool, but by no means accurate.

MattManIWS
MattManIWS

@stevenadamswv Not at all, in fact we at IWS use Twitter to open up political debate: http:\/\/t.co\/hsW17GOl

kennedymuslim
kennedymuslim

@sillysampi Well, it's not exclusively journalism per se but Twitter has indeed turned our whole culture to be more narcissistic

emilyburke
emilyburke

@NataliusGalius 'serving up fluff' and 'who cares updates' ... i was discussing this very thing with my momz today.

stevenadamswv
stevenadamswv

@MattManIWS yeah, I don't agree with the article. If anything Twitter humanizes journalists I think.