“If Twitter were gone, my job would actually be very different,” I told my husband this week.
“You mean like you actually have to work?” he said.
NO, I mean if Twitter goes away, Journalism Today loses a lot of really concrete things! And here they are: A list of things journalism will lose and ways it will change if Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter leads to its closure.
The version of the story below includes embedded tweets. I saved a second version that includes tweet screenshots so we can keep this post if tweet embeds stop working.
Please keep the ideas coming and I will update this list. you can find me on twitter as long as it stays up, or email me here.
Real-time feedback, criticism and perspectives on stories
The tweet that originally inspired me to write this piece was from Jenée Desmond Harriswho writes Slate’s “Dear Prudence” column.
I know a lot of people hate it (who doesn’t hate being criticized or feeling misunderstood?), but I feel compelled to hear how readers who aren’t your friends react – and then always this one Having other POV in the background of your mind – is a very good thing
— Jenée (@jdesmondharris) November 11, 2022
Brent bracketsan author and member of the editorial board of The New York Times, and Stewart Colesan assistant professor in the Department of Communications at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign weighed in.
I’m sure you know this. But you actually hit something: How the advent of social media (combined with online posting) has blackened a very, very white public “discourse.” A significant part of anti-Twitterism stems from this fact.
— Brent Staples (@BrentNYT) November 11, 2022
Yes, and research backs it up! Twitter’s influence far beyond its walls, esp. into journalism, plus #BlackTwitter‘s power over the platform has fundamentally changed black socio-political power over the past decade.
And that seems to be why some hate it. https://t.co/KVwYaXOHCW
— Chokely Carmichael🥋(StewartColes@mastodon.social) (@StewartColes) November 12, 2022
Quote tweets were a crucial part of that, noted John flowersa professor at American University.
This here: Call and Response is a crucial part of what makes Black Twitter work on Twitter, especially as the site’s offerings allow the platform to elevate and transform Call and Response into something unique. https://t.co/2XK4lVCHmd
– dr Johnathan Flowers, Quote Rebel (@shengokai) November 7, 2022
A regular reminder of the problems with “objectivity”
Twitter is an excellent place to publicly denounce news organizations for anything stupid or lazy. This ties in with Desmond-Harris’ point above, but the potential for public credit likely contributed to many media outlets’ decisions to break away from outdated notions of “objectivity.”
It’s not that pile-ons and public shaming are always a force for good. But Twitter has taken on something of a public editor role, and that’s to its advantage. When editors and reporters know there’s a good chance they’ll be called out publicly, they’re likely to spend more time trying to validate an argument, track down a few additional sources, or double-check their data.
A recent NPR tweet is a good example of how Twitter has pushed news outlets to be more direct. Of course, NPR wouldn’t tweet if we didn’t have twitter. But what I mean is that if Twitter hadn’t helped work towards it, we would probably be seeing less of this type of news.
BREAKING: Donald Trump, who attempted to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election and sparked a deadly riot in the Capitol in a desperate bid to stay in power, has moved to run for president again in 2024. https://t. co/iqIcaN3SZA
— NPR (@NPR) November 16, 2022
That Place for breaking news
Sports journalism will get a bit lost without big personalities releasing big news on Twitter before they’re anywhere else
— Mike Denison (@ThatMikeDenison) November 16, 2022
Screenshots of the best bits
Goodbye, screenshots of the juiciest part of a story. Goodbye reporter threads breaking down the best parts so you don’t to have to read the whole thing – at best, these are “like a tldr or an instant expert’s note,” my colleague Sarah Scire written down.
You’re going to hit a paywall for a lot of (really good) coverage. Maybe they subscribe, maybe they’ll find free coverage (which could also be really good, but in emergencies it’s often from non-local / imo less savvy TV stations). + Get news more slowly, of course
— Jake Sheridan (@JakeSheridan_) November 16, 2022
An amazing way to find sources, experts and brand new research
When a family member was diagnosed with a rare disease, I only had to spend about an hour on Twitter to find a handful of experts on the disease nationwide. All responded to my DMs within hours and one doctor gave me her personal phone number.
Twitter offers journalists easy access to academic and scientific communities. We can learn about new scientific research straight from the source (and threads from academics about their own research are often invaluable; see also the “TLDR” Sarah mentioned above.)
It’s becoming harder to identify scientific sources that aren’t already known, and much harder to find new scientific stories that aren’t being sent out as press releases to everyone on a mailing list.
– dr Robin George Andrews 🌋 (@SquigglyVolcano) November 16, 2022
And procurement is just getting harder.
Finding sources will again be the hard way – listening, asking others, reading local news (whoops! There’s no more local news!).
— SIVA VAIDHYANATHAN 🦬 🗽🤘🏽 (@sivavaid) November 16, 2022
DMs as a reporting tool
Sitting somewhere between a text and an email, DMs are an amazing way to connect with sources even if the conversation later moves away from Twitter. I don’t think anyone has ever declined my request to “follow for DM” while another email in the inbox is easy to ignore. Direct messages just don’t seem as annoying as email in most cases.
The part of Twitter that would be most galling to lose is a professional networking service. Interviewed a lot of people for a book project and probably 60% of the interviews are from Twitter DM. Higher success rate than email; easier than tracking down a phone number.
— Nate Silver (@NateSilver538) November 18, 2022
An internet directory
Because no thanks, LinkedIn.
Lack of an Internet directory. can look up a person’s or organization’s profile and get a semi-up-to-date view of where they work/what’s going on. It’s also a place to look instead of finding the About Us page on every website
Will people update their websites instead? I hope!
— erika owens (@erika_owens) November 16, 2022
“This tweet should be a story”
“This tweet should be a story” is a real driver imo
— jaimegreen.net/book (@jaimealyse) November 16, 2022
Real-time conference coverage
If you couldn’t attend a conference, you could catch the highlights from Twitter, pointed out Edder Campuzanoa reporter for the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
* Less public criticism and feedback, leaving a gap in the correspondence between reporters and their audience.
* Another effect: power centers in editorial offices remain unchallenged when they stumble.
* Live coverage of conferences and workshops. I’ve learned so much for free over the years.
– Señor Eder Campuzano (@edercampuzano) November 16, 2022