Okay, Twitter Isn’t Ruining Political Journalism. But It Sure Is Hurting Debate Coverage.

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Via Twitter, I’ve gotten a fair amount of pushback on my post this morning titled “How Twitter Is Ruining Political Journalism.” I blame my editors. They spent years trying to get me to write less boring headlines, and their nagging finally worked! But sometimes it leads me astray. Just for the record, then:

  • The headline was hyperbolic. Obviously Twitter has had both positive and negative effects on political journalism.
  • One of those positive effects is that readers get lots of instant reporting from journalists.
  • One of the negative effects is that journalists now feel like they have to spew out mountains of instant reporting to stay in business.
  • Another positive effect is that chattering between reporters is now more public than before. If you’re going to chatter, the rest of us might as well get to hear it.
  • But a negative effect is that reporters now chatter more than ever. In the past, there really were some limitations on this dictated by physical circumstances.

Debate coverage is an extreme case. Reporters should actively want to develop their own opinions about the candidates’ performances. They should actively want to avoid letting the rest of the herd influence them. That’s just common sense. After they’ve done that and put their thoughts down on paper, they’ll want to get reactions from various folks who have campaign roles, but even then there’s no real reason they should be interested in reactions from other reporters. There’s no reason to be afraid of having a different take than everyone else.

If you’re covering a riot or a burning building, that’s different. Twitter can be an important part of keeping abreast of what’s going on. But political debates are different. Twitter may be fun, but doing your job comes first. Turn it off until the debate is over.

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Democracy and journalism are in crisis mode—and have been for a while. So how about doing something different?

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