I will not wave the white flag at Elon Musk
I’m not leaving Twitter. Not yet.
I understand why so many are interested in boycotting the social media platform now that Elon Musk is in charge. He seems to be turning it into the Shangri-la of right-wing trolls and hate-soaked propaganda and misinformation, and he’s banishing journalists from the platform who criticize him or write about him in general. But every day since he took over, at least on my feed, there are still a ton of everyday regular people interacting with me, commenting on news stories, posting grievances, or asking me questions about my cadence covering January 6th. and its consequences.
Every day, I’m humbled to tell you, I get at least one message from a random person thanking me for just doing my job the way I see fit.
It touches me, honestly, because I know people are busy with their own lives and yet, for whatever reason, they take a few minutes to talk to me — not to unpack some hateful rhetoric but to offer a little gratitude or encouragement. Whenever I get these messages, I’m reminded of who I’m working for: you. This probably sounds cliche to people who are more cynical than me, but to be honest, people who make sarcasm and sarcasm the cornerstone of their character have always brought me to tears.
For now, I’m still able to use Twitter as a space to do journalism. I am, for better or worse, a firm believer in journalism as a public service. I’m honestly excited about it and this is the hill I’m going to die on. This wasn’t controversial when I was working in my first newsroom, but it seems that over the past 10 years or so, it has become an increasingly outlandish concept or, at the very least, one that is derided by many I meet inside and outside the news industry.
I believe the public owes this service to journalism and I believe it is the responsibility of journalists to help people understand power structures so that they can be challenged and questioned.
I’m not the best journalist in the world – far from it – but I’m learning more every day about the kind of journalist and person I want to be throughout my career.
I learn by watching those I respect, I learn by watching those I don’t. Some of it happens offline. Some of it happens online.
Knowing who you are as a journalist is important if you want to do a good job but just as important is knowing who you don’t want to be if you want to do a good job.
And as for me, right now, I don’t want to be the type of journalist who flees a platform that seems increasingly in need of the services I can offer it. Right now, I don’t want to be a journalist running away from a billionaire with a megaphone. Twitter isn’t entirely about Elon Musk though you wouldn’t be entirely wrong in thinking that. Twitter is still about the people who use it. And while many of these users are racist rants, many are not.
I’m not going to filter my Twitter real estate just yet because I use it to share my articles. I use it to share articles from journalists, academics, or other analysts that I’d like to see amplified so people can read their work, get better information, or ask better questions.
Twitter can be a window into places or moments in the world that might not be seen otherwise. This social media platform can be a force for good. It can be a force for evil. And as long as I see a good one on that platform, or people looking for it, I won’t give it up wholesale.
I’ve built up a modest, organic following of about 40,000 people on Twitter since 2017. I don’t buy followers. I have systematically deployed the platform and used it to scale my work and reach the work of others. And if I’m being completely honest, I think one of the main reasons people follow me on Twitter isn’t because of my direct reporting. I think most of my followers hang out because they like my live tweets or my live coverage of events that they might not otherwise watch if the live stream or telecast wasn’t available.
People have told me over the years that they love my live tweets because it gives them the nuance they so crave but, as they put it, find lacking in a 20- or 30-second clip on satellite news.
They like that my direct tweet threads are long (often too long) and often quite detailed. These are the features that journalists often get carried away by their editors or publishers in the usual format.
Now, I don’t knock any editor. They’ve saved me a lot of myself and their cropping is often pretty foolproof, and in fact, editors make you a better writer.
But long-form journalism has seen a resurgence in popularity in recent years for a reason. Clickbait as King may reign, but there is a constant hunger for information that transcends the headline, transcends rage, transcends neatly packaged segments and chariots.
I love Twitter because I can be eloquent or prolific on the same topic. I know Twitter has its problems and I got to know those too. I don’t like it for the same reasons most people hate it: it can be a den of hate. But so can every other social media platform I’ve been on before.
There may come a time when Twitter is truly and utterly unusable to anyone but far-right fundamentalists and their armies, because Musk and his followers have screwed everyone else up.
But that time has not come yet.
I diversify on social media platforms and have been on Mastodon since Halloween. I like it even though it’s not smooth. I’m on the mail. I’m game to try anything that gets people involved or informed in constructive ways about the world they live in.
So, I will not be self-censoring Twitter. Not yet. I think that’s exactly what Musk wants from journalists. I may be on his platform but I will continue to play by my rules until he forcibly removes me and those like me.
#wave #white #flag #Elon #Musk