More Reporters Are Leaving Twitter. What Does It Mean For Social Discourse Online?

“Any time a respected voice leaves … it only amplifies the vitriolic voices.”

By Kristen CabreraJuly 23, 2018 3:20 pm| , ,

For reporters and people in the news industry, Twitter is an indispensable tool used for audience engagement. But a growing number of reporters are announcing they’re paring back or giving up on Twitter completely.

Tracey Todd is a researcher on social media at the National Institute for Civil Discourse. He says that exiting the social media discussion is not the most productive idea for journalists.

“What we are seeing is a lot of prominent voices retreating from the conversation,” he says, “which is actually pretty dangerous to the discourse. Alan Rosenblatt was saying any time a respected voice leaves the platform it only amplifies the vitriolic voices. And what’s really happening in the digital space has continued to be a problem throughout the entire history of the Internet. It’s an attribution problem.”

Anonymity, Todd says, hasn’t shown us the best type of social media usurers.

“Famously Oscar Wilde has a quote where he speaks of man not showing you his true face until he’s given a mask. And that’s what we’ve seen take over with not only Twitter but social platforms,” he says.

The benefits of accessibility of the internet, he says, also pose a problem when trying to decipher fact from fiction.

“Social media and the Internet itself is a double-edged sword. While access is available in ways that ‘s never been, there’s a negative side to that. Where you have agent provocateurs having access and creating misinformation campaigns to success. ”

But does it make sense for reporters to remain in the midst of Twitter’s toxic atmosphere? Todd says the best way to talk to an audience right now is social media.

“Ultimately,” he says, “in journalism and communications, you want to reach the people where they are. At the boom of the television age people had TVs. It was the primary mode of communications, so there were television newscasts. In the radio era, people had radios, so radio programs were the way. I think the people are still on these social platforms so for journalist to leave those social platforms in an effort to create something else to drive traffic to, I think would be a mistake. You want to meet the people where they are in any communication era.”

For reporters to stay on Twitter and other forms of social media means that verified voices will be there to combat misinformation.

“It’s important,” he says, “that these voices remain in this platform and continue to fight even though it’s a uphill battle we need those champions of information, of truth of facts of journalism now.”