Double-Edged Sword of Twitter News

The world of alternative facts and fake news has been a well documented one both online and in this class. We have all discussed and thought about the dangers of fake news and alternative facts, which is why I will not discuss either of those with this post. Instead, I want to discuss the habit in which we have taken to consuming news, and the positives and negatives I see with this way of consumption.

THE GOOD

1. Twitter offers up to the second breaking news.

All of us in the digital age love being the first to consume a piece of media that we know is going to be popular. We all want to be the first one to stream the new Drake album, and we search the internet for streams and feeds of the newest Game of Thrones because we know it exists, and we want it now. News is no different, which is why Twitter is the one stop shop for news seekers. I will never forget the experience of laying in my bed at Boston College on Twitter, and scrolling through my newsfeed seeing “Breaking: Bombings in Paris.” I would re-fresh the page, and I would see, “13 dead,” “30 dead,” “45 dead.” Within minutes there were multiple videos within the soccer stadium where the bombings went off, and I felt like I was living it real time with the people there. It was the definition of breaking news, and that type of experience is unique to Twitter, and a powerful one that I will never forget. cnn-maps

2. Twitter allows one to follow and see the content of many journalists and people around the world.

By this I mean that I am not solely getting the opinions of the same journalists I read everyday at the Boston Globe or NY Times, but I am able to see images and read opinions of journalists from all over. It is a platform where people from all the major news sources around the world will post both breaking and developing news. In addition, the consumer of content on Twitter has the ability to see news that may never see the light of day in a traditional outlet. A personal example of that was I remember seeing the Eric Garner murder very early on Twitter. With thousands of retweets, people around the world were seeing a Staten Island police officer choke Eric Garner out and murder him right in front of our eyes. It’s one thing to read in the paper that someone was choked out, but to see the life of a human leave his body is startling, and Twitter enabled Eric Garner to be seen by millions of people until it had to be covered by every news outlet.

3. Twitter enables consumers to focus on the news and stories they find appealing.

Sitting through a news telecast can be exhausting and frustrating as the story you want to hear may be teased for 20 minutes before it gets to air. Twitter enables consumers to find the story they want from any publication anywhere. For example, I am from the Bay Area, and I am able to keep up with local news via Twitter that I would have never been able to see, or at least this makes it much easier. One can personalize Twitter to be just the news sources and reporters they enjoy, which makes the whole experience more personalized and faster.

 

THE BAD

1. The information one is taking in is often limited and maybe in 140 characters or less.

rachel-maddow-x750Reporters will often post tweets when news is breaking, which is very incomplete and in the formative stages. This may be exciting to the consumer, but it is not the complete story and just part of the information. For example, Rachel Maddow tweeted that she had Trump’s Tax returns, but they were two pages from over a decade ago. Sure, that was breaking news and perhaps deserved to be reported, but that was certainly not the full story. Even stories that are tweeted are often not the full truth because they are rushed digital copies meant to get out as quickly as possible to beat the rush of other breaking news stories.

2. Investigative reporting and long-form stories are often ignored or overlooked.

The idea of Twitter news has become a quick way to get as much information as possible. I do not want to read long stories, I want to get as much information into my brain as possible as quickly as possible. I am guilty of looking at long articles and then taking to Twitter to get the Sparknotes version. This type of consuming is fundamentally bad as we are not only missing the facts, but we are hurting the state of reporting as a whole. The best reporting is investigative, long, and time consuming. I read a long piece over the weekend by New York Magazine writer Olivia Nuzzi about Kellyanne Conway. I personally have despised Kellyanne since she has come to stardom during this political process, but this piece Nuzzi wrote was informative and deep making me look at Kellyanne as a person. Although it was long, that was important in the process as I wasn’t just responding to sound bites but real reporting and facts about this individual. I by no means like her now, but I know her better and feel that there is more to her than what certain tweets and media members depict her as.

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3. Emotions run high in a public forum.

Twitter is a place to get breaking news, but at its core it is a public forum where people can talk and discuss ideas. It is a great thing, but there are of course downsides. When one reads a newspaper or magazine, they are forced to take time and sit with the in-depth information they took in. They internalize it and are forced to take time to develop opinions and maybe even evolve their ideas. On Twitter, one sees a half accurate tweet and has the ability to let their emotions get the best of them. They read a tweet that may make them mad and send out a response that is essentially screaming your immediate reaction to the world, which may not even be the final opinion you rest on if you give it time and thought.

 

THE RESOLUTION

first_frontI am an advocate for using Twitter to get news, and I am not telling people to stop getting their breaking stories from this awesome platform. However, I do urge everyone to find writers and reporters who truly investigate and uncover important stories in long-form and support those writers. These journalists are the ones who uncover extremely important stories like the case of the sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. These reporters are the ones who dive into the injustices of mass incarceration and force a spotlight on very important issues using facts and real journalism, not just opinionated tweets. Obviously fake news is an issue, but it is a product of the way we consume news, and if we all take the time to truly read good reporters with thorough ideas and take the time to sit with those ideas, news and society will be in a better, more understanding place.

 

9 comments

  1. JoshLArtman · ·

    Nice post! I know your inner Twitter struggle all too well – wanting to stay well-informed and truly educated while also trying to get information quickly and easily is a difficult balancing act. I find that although I do follow many accounts just for their tweets, I also make a point to follow accounts such as The New Yorker, The Intercept, and Vox because they post longer articles/explainers that help me stay informed. It is going to be very interesting to see how Americans stay informed as these digital platforms develop – my parents still read two newspapers every morning, but I think we all know that our generation will not be doing the same in 30 years. Very interesting topic for a very interesting post!

  2. Great post! It’s such a difficult topic to judge where I too fall on. I receive a large portion of my news from Twitter and what I think is great is that I can immediately fact-check that news. We can all do that by following multiple news sources who have the most recent updates. I agree that there is a huge issue with incentives for reporters. We reward journalists and reporters for being the fastest rather than the most accurate. The information revolution we have been experiencing over the last decade has really been a type of misinformation revolution for others. I think fake news is the price we pay for speed. As a country we need to start looking at news less as a competition and more as a collective effort towards the truth. With companies like Fox and CNN competition for viewership, that has bode to be difficult.

  3. diiorion · ·

    Great post! I had a similar situation with the death of Osama bin Laden as you did with the bombings in France. I was just casually scrolling through Twitter and saw the breaking news and couldn’t believe it. That was the first time that I truly felt the power of Twitter and have never forgotten it. And I agree with all of your points, especially that everyone should supplement their Twitter news with in-depth, investigative journalism. But to play Devil’s advocate to your second point, while people have the ability to get news from plenty of journalists around the world, many often don’t and only follow news sources that promote their same opinions. This is very similar to the Chrome plug in that we saw in class that told you where your Facebook friends were on the political spectrum. I think that even if people won’t read long articles, they can still make an effort to follow a more diverse group of journalists in an attempt to get both sides of the story.

  4. Really liked this post, especially your second point under the “Bad” section. This is my single biggest issue with twitter as a news source, especially when considering how complicated the issues are that face our society. Furthermore, I believe the simplified media people consume on twitter is emblematic of a bigger problem. Major politicians from both parties are extremely guilty of standing behind simplified, easy to understand ideas rather than well though out, detailed policy proposals. And the voters are just as guilty of supporting and electing some of them. Even though it may be better for people to be getting some news instead of none, the harm done by misleading article titles and tweets in some cases may be worse.

    I completely agree that people need to read more full articles, which is certainly possible on Twitter. More often than not, major media outlets share in-depth and intelligent articles with their tweets, so it’s up to us to click and read rather than try and guess the content of each piece using only the (possibly misleading) title.

  5. duffyfallon · ·

    Great insight into both the positives and negatives of using Twitter as a news consumption tool – I agree with all the point’s you’ve flushed out above. Twitter is great in that it provides real time access to an unlimited number of media outlets, reporters, journalists, photographers, etc. I’ve found that in today’s media environment I prefer to get my news form variety of specific journalists across the media landscape – rather than from any singular media outlet. Twitter works great for me in that sense because it functions as a customizable, aggregate newsfeed– a single place I can go to that has all the information I’m interested in. With that said, I completely agree with you in that it has accelerated the rush to be the first to report a story (turning a blind-eye to the potential factual errors) and that it can lead to some people skipping over the most well done investigative reporting. Like you said I think it comes down to an individual responsibility to understand the media/social media environment we live in right now and take the time to dig up thorough, meaningful reporting

  6. duffyfallon · ·

    Great insight into both the positives and negatives of using Twitter as a news consumption tool – I agree with all the point’s you’ve flushed out above. Twitter is great in that it provides real time access to an unlimited number of media outlets, reporters, journalists, photographers, etc. I’ve found that in today’s media environment I prefer to get my news form variety of specific journalists across the media landscape – rather than from any singular media outlet. Twitter works great for me in that sense because it functions as a customizable, aggregate newsfeed– a single place I can go to that has all the information I’m interested in. With that said, I completely agree with you in that it has accelerated the rush to be the first to report a story (turning a blind-eye to the potential factual errors) and that it can lead to some people skipping over the most well done investigative reporting. Like you said I think it comes down to an individual responsibility to understand the media/social media environment we live in right now and take the time to dig up thorough, meaningful reporting

  7. terencenixdorf · ·

    Great post! I think you’re definitely right about Twitter’s positives and negatives when it comes to news reporting. The fast as lightning, read a Tweet first, idea of news is great but I don’t think it can replace the actual news at all. You can only get so much from 140 characters meanwhile there’s often a lot more to the story than the “Breaking News” piece that some of us may read. Just because someone’s verified on Twitter doesn’t mean they have the best sources, the best information, or even actual factual information. While not a news outlet, POTUS’ recent Tweets about Obama wiretapping him could be used as a good example. People that read Trump’s Twitter would be easily convinced that this actual happened, despite no actual evidence backing it up. In order to find out that these accusations were false, someone would have to go to an actual news site and read about what the fact checkers found out. I think some people are shifting over and relying on Twitter too much because of the whole fake news phenomenon as well but in order to have diversified opinions, people need diversified news outlets as well. Thanks for sharing!

  8. viquezj · ·

    Great insight about the risks of reading news directly from Twitter without taking the necessary time to read the entire story and process the whole information. Many times reporters use twitter to post comments/information out of its original context which might change its meaning completely. Thereby, misguiding the audience to believe something that is not true, and making people jump to conclusions before even having the full story. In addition, anyone could share news on Twitter and no one is there to verify the veracity and credibility of the story. In other words, it creates the risk of having more fake news which may lead people to create opinions even if the 140 characters tweet is completely made up. In this sense, Twitter becomes a dangerous tool for politicians/businesses/organizations to influence the public without necessarily having facts that back up their story.

  9. Good post. As you can imagine, the effect of social media on the news was a BIG topic last semester.

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