02.13.2012 10:18 AM

Big media twits

From the New York Times:

Big media companies love when their employees hit Twitter. After all, the short-form social media platform gives consumers direct access to media personalities, and along with it, an intimate connection that large media organizations, and the public, revel in.

Until something goes wrong. Roland Martin, who is paid to spout opinions on CNN, posted a controversial one on Twitter and now he is on suspension.

Like a lot of us, Mr. Martin watched the Super Bowllast Sunday and like many of us, he frolicked on Twitter as one more way of “watching” the big game, including commercials.

Mr. Martin, a syndicated newspaper columnist and a political analyst for CNN, got in trouble for writing, “If a dude at your Super Bowl party is hyped about David Beckham’s H&M underwear ad, smack the ish out of him! #superbowl.”

Many, including gay advocacy groups, felt that the post advocated violence against homosexuals. Mr. Martin, a longtime hater of soccer, saw the immediate blowback on Twitter and said he was just mocking that sport, and nothing more. CNN also saw the outcry and suspended Mr. Martin indefinitely, saying in a news release that his post was “regrettable and offensive.”

This is not the first time someone who makes a living on one platform has been clobbered for making remarks on another.”

I’ve written about how fabbo Twitter is before (for political parties).  I’ve also written about how dangerous it can be (for media).

Here are my thoughts on the MSM and media, written in Tweet-style (that is, journalism with Tourettes):

  • It is amazing how many seasoned journalists are utterly without self-awareness on Twitter.  Too many of them act, and sound, like pre-pubescents.  They thereby diminish the real journalism they do elsewhere.
  • The tone they adopt on Twitter is awful.  They affect a cynical, world-weary tone, 24/7, that is boring and in no way endearing.  They come across looking like a bunch of pseuds trying to out-clever each other.
  • Contrary to what the CBC evidently thinks, Twitter is not journalism.  Paying people to Tweet, and not much else, is absurd.  Their readers/viewers deserve more than brain burps.
  • Political parties and corporations monitor Twitter regularly.  They use it to determine, in advance, how a journalist intends to put together a story, and what their bias might be.  I predict it will soon start showing up in defamation actions to provide evidence of malice.
  • Everyone needs an editor.  Twitter removes editorial oversight, and some journalists we thought were great – turns out – aren’t.  Turns out their editors are the stars, not them.
  • They sound clubby, cloistered and (often) clueless.  They do themselves, and their readers/viewers, no service.

Therefore, I’ve simply stopped following some of them.  Life’s too short, etc.

What do you think?



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    KP says:

    With how often she tweets (as of this post, more than 81,000 updates), I wonder how many Blackberry(s) Kady O’Malley has cost me. Not that I have a personal issue with her, but I’m still not sure what it is she does.

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      Warren says:

      I think she had (and maybe still has) the potential to be the Izzy Stone of our generation. But she’s been seduced by the technology, unfortunately, and lost her way, a bit. I hope she finds her way back to real reporting, and not just 140-character bursts of…what? I don’t even know what it is. But it isn’t what Izzy Stone did, that’s for sure.

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    Sean Cummings says:

    Excellent blog post, Warren. I follow a number of Canadian journalists on Twitter and I’m always amused by how they consistently try to so hard to sound ironic, snarky and smart-alecky. Occasionally they do something useful, like how Kady O’Malley grilled the crap out of Stephen Taylor regarding his “journalist” credentials and his releasing an attack ad at the recent Liberal convention … but that’s more the exception than the rule. So it begs the question: if you are a journalist on Twitter, should you not adopt the same kinds of standards that you maintain when you’re on air (radio & TV) or reporting on a story? I know a lot of people will argue with me, but seriously, much of Twitter is inane babble to begin with. I suspect the question of how a journalist should present his/herself via social media hasn’t yet hit the journalism schools in Canada.

    Very simply, most of them are trying too hard to be ironic as opposed to, you know, relevant. It makes for boring Tweets but it’s a fascinating window into how “the rules” (if there are to be any rules) don’t yet exist for journalists on Twitter. Until someone defines those rules, we’re going to get more vacuous, obtuse comments on what kind of shoes Rosie Barton is wearing while she waits in a snowstorm for the Prime Minister to arrive at an event.

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    ben burd says:

    Coyne drives me nuts and fits your description of a brain-burp trying to be clever AND he’s a bloody editor in real life – totally overrated even if he is Rex Murphy’s friend

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    Ottawacon says:

    Personally, I think this says more about the sorry state of journalism than Twitter. Twitter just reduces most journalism to its essence. Your comment on tone is bang-on, but is not restricted to tweets, it is the posture adopted by all too many in an attempt to appear thoughtful.

    Absolutely agree about Kady O’Malley, she has really lost her way, offers so much less than she did 5 years ago.

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    dave says:

    I think it takes a while to figure out how a new tech can work for people. Some mistakes are made. Sometimes we go a certain distance, and then stop, not pushing to see what can be done. Good points about getting stuck at a certain stage and getting irrelevent, and of risking libel.
    On the whole, it seems ok to see what can be done. With this stuff, a lot of the experimenting is done in public.

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    EM says:

    Pretty much every tweet issued by Andrew Coyne confirms my impression of him as a well-informed, decent and slightly quirky first-class columnist. I find that Twitter has enhanced my respect for him and my understanding of his work, even when I’m not in agreement. So overall, in his case, I would say Twitter is a big plus.

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    Cam Prymak says:

    5 seconds to Twitter

    Career in the Shitter

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    JH says:

    Nailed it WK – twits on twitter! Luckily for them, majority aren’t paying attention.

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    Sean says:

    I don’t think I truly realised how wonderful it is to just sit down at a local cafe, with a real newspaper, until the internet reached its current zenith of stupid.

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    KP says:

    I’m just glad my days as a working journalist are over. Miserable industry to work in unless you’re at or near the top.

    It’s almost as if the journos on twitter need to be ‘on’ all the time but rather than sounding smart or clever, they opt for bitter and occasionally sarcastic, but if I had to deal with trolls who were pinging me on a daily basis to take something I’d written completely out of context, I’d probably be bitter too.

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    MP says:

    I’ll bite – if the outcome of Twitter is that it makes journalists more accessible and more transparent (even if it reveals a perceived lack of substance), then I think the reader is better informed as it concerns the credibility and hidden bias of the tweeting members of the media. That’s a good thing.

    Like many other new technologies, it will take time for users to adopt and adapt. Further, like any other media technology, it will change how we consume and interpret content in other forms of media. I’m not sure we know enough to make judgments about good tweeting and bad tweeting. I think we need to see a few more canaries in the coal mine (sidenote: a pity you don’t name names or identify examples).

    It sounds like you are chastizing journalists for diluting the weight of the printed page with their incessant tweets. However, I think members of the great unwashed (including “stupid bloggers”) have been chipping away at the facade of journalism for some time now. Accordingly, I’m not sure that traditional journalism or the printed page has the immediate authority it once did.

    While I think the technical form has suffered somewhat (perhaps due to the fact that it’s now a 24 hr occupation), folks have got to acknowledge that the purpose of all journalism is to transfer information and context. For all the warts and possible misuse, Twitter is a useful instrument for modern journalism.

    Like many of the just-in-time news articles we see “published” today, it’s all a work-in-progress. It’s going to take some time for journalists to adapt.

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    Glen says:

    “The tone they adopt on Twitter is awful. They affect a cynical, world-weary tone, 24/7, that is boring and in no way endearing. They come across looking like a bunch of pseuds trying to out-clever each other.”

    Bingo. I hope they read that and have a moment of self-reflection.

    That said, I watched Wells on some CPAC panel thing with a few other journalists in the fall, including Coyne and some others.

    His Twitter posts actually make him seem much smarter than he seems in real-life.

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    Mom says:

    I still miss @iamdavidmiller on Twitter. He has really dropped off. Not a jounalist, but he had lots to say!

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    Bil Huk says:

    Dear MSM,

    Re: Twitter

    You’re doing it wrong.



    my 1st year poli sci prof told a story (early 90s) of being asked to help set up/consult on some of the parliments/congresses of the small baltics right after the fall of the curtain.

    he said some of patch-quilt parliments and congresses were voting on up to 70 bills a day. Obviously 95% of the bills weren’t even reviewed by the members voting on them (no cynical remarks about our parliment please). When asked why they had set up their congress to vote like this, the response was “well, isn’t this democracy? getting to vote?”

    MSM and twitter conjures the same vision. they don’t really get it yet.

    my GREATEST fear is they do get it, and we don’t, and more lengthly commentary is going to start to fall away.

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