Paris: Few would lose as much as journalists if Twitter died, having come to rely on its endless sources and instant updates despite the risks and distortions that come with it.
Nick Newman of the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism said most journalists “can’t leave”. “It’s actually a really important part of their job.”
Newman was working for the BBC when Twitter started making waves in 2008 and 2009.
“It was a new Rolodex, a new way to connect with people – great for case studies and … experts,” he said.
But Twitter It also became a contender, replacing newsrooms as the audience’s source of breaking news when terrorist attacks, natural disasters, or any fast-moving story occurred.
“Journalists realized that they wouldn’t always be the ones reporting the news, and that their role would be different — more in contextualizing and verifying that news,” Newman said.
It also linked journalists to the platform of advertisements for politicians and celebrities — most famously Donald Trump’s late-night and early-morning tweets, which left hundreds of journalists sleep-deprived throughout his presidency.
Dependency has generated many problems.
New York Times columnist Farhad Manjoo spoke to many in 2019 when he wrote that “Twitter is destroying American journalism” in the way it “draws journalists deeper into the disturbing undercurrents of tribal melodrama, curtailing our instincts in favor of mob and robot-driven groupthink.”
By rewarding the sharpest votes, the platform tends to swamp the majority of the population—moderates and non-elites alike.
“The discussions that happen on Twitter are very much the discussions of the elite,” Newman said. “It was definitely a problem in the newsroom.”
Matthew Ingram, a digital media specialist at Columbia Journalism Review, agrees that “only interest in Twitter tends to distort the way many people, including journalists, see the world.”
Although he hopes they have gained enough intelligence to deal with the distortions, the journalists have been subjected to “a massive wave of misinformation and harassment”.
But for all the frantic talk about Musk’s volatile tenure, many believe the site will survive.
“For the record, I don’t think Twitter is likely to shut down anytime soon,” said Stephen Barnard, a sociologist at Butler University in the US.
But he said journalists had good reason to fear her disappearance.
“They will lose access to what for many is a very large, powerful and diverse social network… (and) also a positive source of prestige and professional identity,” Barnard said.
“There doesn’t seem to be a real heir in that space, so I’m not sure where they’re going.”
On the plus side, it could lead to a return to “more traditional ways of research and reporting,” Ingram said.
“Maybe this is a good thing,” he added.