Few would lose as much as journalists if Twitter went under, and despite the dangers and distortions that would ensue, people depended on its endless resources and instant updates.

The platform’s imminent demise has been hotly discussed since billionaire Elon Musk took over last month and began laying off large numbers of employees.

But Nic Newman of the Reuters Institute for Journalism said most journalists “can’t leave”. “It’s actually a very important part of their job.”

When Twitter started making waves in 2008 and 2009, Newman was working at the BBC.

“It’s a new Rolodex, a new way to connect — great for case studies and … experts,” he said.

But Twitter has also become a competitor, supplanting newsrooms as the public’s source of breaking news when terrorist attacks, natural disasters, or any fast-moving story strikes.

“Journalists realize they won’t always be the ones breaking the news, and their role will be different — more contextualizing and verifying the news,” Newman said.

It also means journalists are connected to platforms where politicians and celebrities make announcements — most notably Donald Trump’s horrific late-night and early-morning tweets, which have deprived hundreds of journalists of sleep during his presidency.

“Tribal Melodrama”

This dependency breeds many problems.

New York Times columnist Farhad Manjoo, speaking for many in 2019, wrote that “Twitter is destroying journalism in America” ​​because it “drags journalists deeper into tribal melodrama.” Torrent, short-circuiting our better instincts in favor of mob- and robot-driven groupthink.”

By rewarding the most vocal voices, the to drown out the majority—moderates and non-elites alike.

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“The debate that’s happening on Twitter is very much an elite debate,” Newman said. “It’s definitely an issue in newsrooms.”

“Twitter-only attention to distort the way many people, including journalists, see the world,” agrees Matthew Ingram, a digital media expert at Columbia Journalism Review.

While he hopes they have grown savvy to deal with these distortions, journalists have been subject to a “massive wave of disinformation and harassment”.

But despite all the frantic chatter surrounding Musk’s tumultuous tenure, many thought the site would survive.

“For the record, I don’t think Twitter is likely to shut down anytime soon,” said Butler University sociologist Stephen Barnard.

But he said journalists had good reason to fear it would disappear.

“They would lose access to many very large, powerful and diverse social networks … (and) also positive sources of prestige and professional identity,” Barnard said.

“There’s no real heir in that field, so I’m not sure where they’re going,” he added.

On the bright side, it could spur a return to “more traditional ways of doing research and reporting,” Ingram said.

“Maybe that would be a good thing,” he added.


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