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Twitter is no friend of journalism. But it isn't a foe either

Vicky Kapur (From the Executive Editor's desk)
Filed on February 12, 2020 | Last updated on February 12, 2020 at 05.33 am
Twitter is no friend of journalism. But it isnt a foe either

(Reuters file photo)

News, for all practical purposes, is reported on Twitter first.

Yesterday, the Dubai Press Club hosted a workshop on digital journalism in partnership with Twitter, offering UAE-based journalists the tools with which to stay au courant with media trends. That begs the question: do we really need Twitter to make the newshounds stay abreast of media trends? Short answer: yes. Long answer: read on. I'm connected to some of my journalist peers on LinkedIn, where we do indulge in the occasional endorsements of thoughts and posts with 'likes' or 'shares'. But that engagement often remains high-brow or superficial. Quite a few of my former and current colleagues are my Facebook 'friends', too, and conversations are a bit more relaxed and friendlier on that platform. But while LinkedIn is like a digital meeting room and FB a multilevel mall, when it comes to journalists, we have a particular affinity towards the platform of choice for breaking news: Twitter.

News, for all practical purposes, is reported on Twitter first. And I'm talking breaking news, not just the Donald Trump kind of 'newsmaker news'. The US president sure seems to have made the platform his preferred choice for announcing policy changes even before he's discussed them with his core team, but that's a different story. Newsrooms globally began embracing social media around the time the worst of the 2008-09 recession was playing out. Advertising had been hit badly and it seemed like a good idea to branch out storytelling to the more dynamic platform. After all, 'digital' is where the smart advertiser's money was headed, wasn't it? Ad revenue did get on to the digital i-way, but 9 out of 10 dollars (sure, call them dirhams) are spent with social media and search engines (read: Facebook and Google), with publishers receiving only leftovers.

Twitter, for all purposes and intent, hasn't eaten into publishers' lunch like the others. On the contrary, it has given many a journalist tipoffs about breaking stories or opinion to add context to their reportage. Where journalists went wrong is when some of the laziest amongst us started scavenging the platform for not just tipoffs but for the entire reportage itself, trivialising our own effort and craft. The business of aggregating opinion was never journalism - and is best left to social media. Journalism was always about revealing things that hide in plain sight, about uncovering truths that some don't want known, about creating meaningful discussions and, where plausible, drawing logical conclusions. Social media can be a compelling enabler of that.


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