Is Twitter ruining journalism or are journalists ruining Twitter?

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Courtesy of

Twitter’s detractors are mounting a spring offensive.

Choire Sicha had a revelation Wednesday as he watched journalists live-tweet Rupert Murdoch’s testimony: “Who gamed a substantial number of professional news-gatherers into providing free content for Twitter?”

“We saw a seemingly endless number of journalists spend the very early hours frantically live-tweeting every possibly interesting bit (and plenty not) of Rupert Murdoch’s testimony… It certainly wasn’t helping them get their news articles published in a more timely fashion! And it not only didn’t result in any revenue for their news organization, it didn’t even result in any revenue for the writer in the course of his job duties.”

Separately, California politics blog Calbuzz raised three criticisms of Twitter in political news. The most nuanced argument was this:

“It makes everything as important as everything else … favors the trivial over the substantive … the immediate over the consequential … and events over ideas.

The result: a second-by-second, self-contained and self-referential closed feedback loop.”

The San Francisco Bay Guardian posted a response to Calbuzz’s critique, arguing the problem lies with people, not Twitter.

“It’s not Twitter’s fault; Twitter’s just a tool. It’s the idea that everyone should report and re-report every trivial thing that happens (or maybe doesn’t happen) in a mad rush to be the first with it and get all the traffic.

… You can’t blame technology or the applications it creates for turning us in the news business into a bunch of attention-starved maniacs who put stuff out there without checking the facts. That’s happened for years.”

Who’s right? I lean toward the Guardian’s side; a tool is just a tool and the craftsman is responsible for how he uses it. However, craftsmen need to understand a tool’s built-in biases and limitations in order to wield it well.

Yes, it is possible to overuse Twitter to the detriment of your other reporting; it is possible to pursue trivial tweetable “scoops” to the detriment of insightful journalism. The solution isn’t to not use Twitter — it’s to not use Twitter that way.

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