Journalistic handwringing over Twitter

This article in Poynter asks a very good question: is Twitter ruining journalism, and a related question: are journalists ruining Twitter.

How might either be happening? One, everyone is giving all the information–journalists using Twitter are giving their best stuff away for free, so the concern might be that journalism is weakened or ruined by it.

The second concern is that journalists, like the rest of us, put a lot of junk out on Twitter: “favors the trivial over the substantive … the immediate over the consequential … and events over ideas.”

Yeah, that’s right. But, the San Francisco Guardian responded to the criticism this way:

“… You can’t blame technology or the applications it creates for turning us in the news business into a bunch of attention-starved maniacs who put stuff out there without checking the facts. That’s happened for years.”

Couldn’t have said it better myself. There’s a lot wrong with news today. But Twitter isn’t what’s wrong. The operating assumption of most in professional journalism is that the attention span of audiences is that of a hummingbird, and they only thing that matters is what is happening right NOW. Immediacy is everything. In this understanding, I don’t think they are necessarily wrong, and because they die without an audience, why take a chance? On the other hand, the Economist continues to grow at a rate of about 5%. The weekly news magazine specializes in depth, intelligent analysis and topics that matter.

With Twitter and the Economist we have a wide choice–do we want info on what is happening right now, knowing that it is filled with mundane, ridiculous and usually incorrect information? Or do we want depth, analysis, insight? Like us audience, journalists can choose, too. And they are doing so.