An Unnecessary Role

embracing false choices

How Twitter has turned everyone into journalists, and not in a good way

with one comment

I love Twitter. It’s a one stop shop for the latest news, silly jokes and links to interesting stuff, a curated list of friends, experts and contacts. In the best modern local government tradition it lets you do more with less, compressing what would previously have been half a morning’s aimless web browsing into a quick check of your feed.

That said,what drew me to Twitter was the organic way the latest news and interesting content percolated through your feed, and the way you were drawn into an overheard conversation about the world and events, rather than being slapped round the face with the LATEST NEWS, forced to read in a linear fashion the pre-mediated news priorities of the mainstream. Now even non-journalists appear increasingly to use Twitter to ‘break news’, highlight their ‘in the know’ status and ‘drive the news agenda’.

This increasingly ‘mediarised’ part of Twitter includes not only print and broadcast journalists (who are at least only doing their job), but also the new breed of commentators and bloggers (although Andrew Sullivan would contest whether writing 1,500 words a week on whether Ed Miliband is right/wrong makes you a blogger), and the even newer breed of general Twitter users playing along.

It even has its own language. A faintly interesting article about an issue of the day is not merely something that you ‘must read’, but it is also a ‘must-read’ piece, or simply a ‘must-read’ alone.  There is the ubiquitous “BREAKING” (or worse “BREAK”) to denote something that the rest of Twitter hasn’t yet thought up an obvious joke about. And before something is BREAKING you must be ‘hearing’ it (as in “I’m hearing a big story is going to break overnight about the Cabinet” when you mean Liam Fox has leaked another letter).

And that’s how Twitter has turned people into journalists. It’s turned them into smug, insider journalists of the worst kind. Not citizens freed by social media to reveal their own truth through research, evidence and reportage, but people captured by or actively buying into a echo-chamber that lacks perspective, has an insatiable need for drama, and seeks out the latest news trend before dumping it and moving on to something else.

As I type the Twittersphere is ablaze with the completely untrue news that Piers Morgan has been suspended by CNN, after Jon Snow was conned by a fake account purporting to be a real journalist into posting news that isn’t real. Which just about sums this post up.

NB: The likelihood that I am guilty of some or all of the sins outlined in this post is very strong. Such rank hypocrisy means I am no better than the rest of us.  I should resign.


Written by samelliot

July 28, 2011 at 5:55 pm

Posted in Cynicism, Twitter

One Response

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  1. I have found none of this false reporting on twitter. Perhaps you should just not follow or simply block people that spam false news. That is after all why we have an ‘unfollow’ & ‘block’ choice.


    July 28, 2011 at 6:14 pm

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