If you can’t beat them, hide from them.
The controversy over the Covington students shows why American journalism should disengage from Twitter.
The reasoning is quite instructive:
The Covington saga illustrates how every day the media’s favorite social network tugs journalists deeper into the rip currents of tribal melodrama, short-circuiting our better instincts in favor of mob- and bot-driven groupthink. In the process, it helps bolster the most damaging stereotypes of our profession. Instead of curious, intellectually honest chroniclers of human affairs, Twitter regularly turns many in the news — myself included — into knee-jerk outrage-bots reflexively set off by this or that hash-tagged cause, misspelled presidential missive or targeted-influence campaign.
But Twitter isn’t just ruining the media’s image. It’s also skewing our journalism. Everything about Twitter’s interface encourages a mind-set antithetical to journalistic inquiry: It prizes image over substance and cheap dunks over reasoned debate, all the while severely abridging the temporal scope of the press.
Memo to Farhad Manjoo: Twitter did not ruin the media’s image. They did that all by themselves with doing the same thing I chronicled in my first book.
The book that showed way back in 2005 exactly one year before Twitter debuted that this kind of behaviour was a problem that destroyed the profession’s credibility.
What Twitter does is expose the groupthink that was always there. You are merely telling colleagues to hide their ugly side, not confront things.
And no, Twitter isn’t “helping [to] bolster the most damaging stereotypes of our profession” — that is your profession.
Deal with it.