By Kevin O'Keefe

Twitter is not flawed, New York Times reporter’s use of Twitter is flawed

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Maggie Haberman, a White House correspondent for ther New York Times, shared in an op-ed last week that she’s quitting Twitter — because she needs to.

Not that the New York Times wants her to quit using Twitter. Most of their reporters not only use Twitter, but the Times’ encourages them to do so – along with other social networks, including Facebook.

For Haberman, Twitter has become a flawed medium.

Twitter has stopped being a place where I could learn things I didn’t know, glean information that was free from errors about a breaking news story or engage in a discussion and be reasonably confident that people’s criticisms were in good faith.

The viciousness, toxic partisan anger, intellectual dishonesty, motive-questioning and sexism are at all-time highs, with no end in sight. It is a place where people who are understandably upset about any number of things go to feed their anger, where the underbelly of free speech is at its most bilious.

Twitter is now an anger video game for many users. It is the only platform on which people feel free to say things they’d never say to someone’s face. For me, it had become an enormous and pointless drain on my time and mental energy.

No doubt Haberman had seen value in Twitter.

I got to promote my own stories. I got to provide context. Eventually I started adding more of my voice, dipping my toes in the water to see if I could stand the temperature. I got to defend my reporting and defend my colleagues. I received instant feedback. I met people through Twitter whom I wouldn’t have otherwise. Readers sent me story tips over direct message. Many pointed out errors, but most did it respectfully, and I was appreciative. There was an art to this medium, and I thought I’d figured it out.

And she still does.

To be clear, Twitter is a useful and important platform. It’s a good aggregator for breaking news. I still check my feed to see breaking news developments, and I will continue to. And it is democratic — everyone gets to have a voice, whether they work for a local paper, a small TV station or one of the biggest newspapers in the world, or are not in the media business at all. The downside is that everyone is treated as equally expert on various topics.

So much so that Haberman continues to use Twitter. For sharing her stories, sharing other’s stories and replying to others on Twitter.

If Haberman was halving trouble with Twitter, it may have been the result of how she used Twitter, not because Twitter has become flawed.

Scott Greenfield, questioning Haberman’s argument that Twitter has become a flawed offensive medium, said it well.

Twitter, like any medium, is merely a forum, a platform where there will be smart and dumb, honest and dishonest, good faith and bad. There are remarkably good things, funny jokes, interesting asides and fascinating discussions. And there’s tons of garbage. This was always the case. Even when it was less offensive, it was still largely dumb. After all, the twits come from people, and people aren’t nearly as fabulous as we should be. Not you, of course. You are totally fab. Other people.

Twitter is like the real world. Who you engage and who engages you depends on where you go and who you hang out with. The news and information you receive depends on the trustworthiness and authority of your sources.

If, like Haberman, I follow almost 4,000 people on Twitter and randomly engage many of the over 800,000 people who follow me, things are going to get to be a bit of a nut house. Especially if I start to reason with the unreasonable, something that’s just not impossible.

Using Twitter effectively, as Haberman now appears to be doing, you’ll find that Twitter is great source for information and breaking news, enables you to have a voice where you have not had one before and allows you to meet people you’d not have otherwise met.

The viciousness, toxic partisan anger and intellectual dishonesty which Haberman argues is Twitter today is really a world on Twitter that you bring upon yourself.

Kevin O'Keefe
About the Author

Trial lawyer turned legal tech entrepreneur, I am the founder and CEO of LexBlog, a legal blog community of over 30,000 blog publishers, worldwide. LexBlog’s publishing platform is used on a subscription basis by over 18,000 legal professionals, including the largest law firm in each India, China and the United States.

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