The Twitter Blog directed me to a NY Times article today entitled "Campaign Reporting in Under 140 Taps". The article details how one reporter is using Twitter to report from the campaign trail. Here's the quote...
“NASHUA: Just saw Bill O’reily misbehaving at Obama rallly. Shoving Obama staffer.”
With these sloppily spelled words, sent Jan. 5 by text message by John Dickerson, chief political correspondent for the online magazine Slate, did microjournalism come of age.
The encounter between Mr. O’Reilly, the Fox News host, and the campaign aide did become actual news, kind of, for a day (a brief item ran in The New York Times, for example). But it first emerged from a high school gym in New Hampshire via Mr. Dickerson’s BlackBerry.
He uses Twitter — one of a number of so-called microblogging services — to distribute his text-message reporting to his Facebook friends, as well as his readers at Slate, which reprints recent Twitter items alongside his longer-form writing.
I want to throw one last quote out before going on. This is from later in the article...
Way back in early December, Mr. Dickerson was a solitary figure microblogging from the campaign trail, and there was less breaking news to report, so his posts ran the gamut from trenchant (before the Republican debate in Johnston, Iowa: “Alan Keyes is here. There will be yelling.”), the self-referential (“Happy the Marriott Des Moines upgraded their gym.”) to the maudlin (“Bing Crosby is singing Noel and Barack Obama is on the TV not pitting red america against Blue America all while I try to eat my 5 O’clo. ...”). The strict 140-character limit apparently took some getting used to.
The above twitter quotes make my point better than I ever will. But allow me to elaborate a little.
One of the most societally damaging and ultimately self-destructive things modern day journalists have done is to forget they're supposed to be impartial and that they have a duty to present the story from every angle. Modern Journalists instead seem to believe their opinions are more valuable than the truth or their duty to try to present it.
The above quotes are just another example of that. Reporters so enamored with themselves that rather than attempt impartiality they choose to use Twitter to throw out 140 character quips. This "Journalistic Narcissism" (if you will) has led to a world where people don't even bother with traditional news outlets anymore but instead get their information from more polarized sources such as the Internet or Talk Radio.
The attitude among the public now seems to be "if I'm going to have to listen to someone's personal opinion it might as well be someone I agree with." So people stop seeking the truth. Moreover with no difference remaining between the journalist and the hack, people abandon the journalist and Journalism itself slowly dies.
When the profession that is supposed to be dedicated to seeking the truth is no longer sought after we should all be a little worried.
That is why this story is so scary to me. Truth requires depth and depth doesn't come in 140 characters. The great men (and women) of the world have, at best, a handful of quotes attributed to them meaning that even they could only manage to say a few things that were both short and profound in their life. If reporters believe its acceptable to use Twitter to cover the news its a very disturbing sign of things to come.
I'm not against using twitter for certain purposes (such as keeping track of friends) but it is a shallow means of communication and it shouldn't be used to transfer any information that is not shallow.