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