Tag Archives: twitter

We the Press People

 

Enough.

Enough with the attempts to define news.  Enough with the mock outrage over a lack of objectivity. Enough with pretending that “social” media is somehow different from its “mainstream” sibling.

It isn’t. Make no mistake: They are siblings, if not identical twins.

That we in the ancient media of print and television ever tolerated the term “social media” is something of a grim miracle. It’s hard to imagine other professions that would tolerate such a mangling of the terminology of its trade. Or that the public would so wholeheartedly embrace the mauling.

How many businesses or people, for instance, would hazard a flight on a plane steered by a “social pilot?” How many would reserve gurney time for an appendectomy by a “social surgeon?”

Yet, like running a hotel or driving a taxi, being a journalist has become the province of amateurs. Thanks to blogs and free vomit buckets like Facebook and Twitter, the idea of being published hinges less on linguistic dexterity than determinism.

Yet so many in the media claim to be outside its Ivy League walls, forbidden entry by out of step gatekeepers. And we’re not just talking conspiracy slackwits like Sean Hannity or Alex Jones.

Really smart people — like, Noam Chomsky-, Sam Harris-, Neil deGrasse Tyson-, Richard Dawkins-smart — make similarly ridiculous claims.

Take Harris, a neuroscience author of staggering eloquence. In his podcast, website and books, he is quick to lament that “the mainstream media refuses or is unable to see” most issues that underpin our society, from religion to economics to politics. The schism, Harris contends, was a leading contributor to the victory of the Trump administration.

Yet in the same talk or web posting, he will wonder aloud how his podcast became so popular, his Twitter account so swamped with activity.

It’s because you’re in the mainstream media, Sam.

Just do the math. While podcast numbers are not officially tallied (like Nielsen ratings for TV, and yes, that’s a hint), Harris has been publicly flabbergasted by a podcast following of 400,000 that exceeds all of his book sales — combined. He has 888,000 Twitter followers.

The Washington Post has a circulation of 740,000. While not an apples-to-apples comparison, If Harris’ Twitter fanbase alone were a newspaper, it would be the fifth largest in the nation

He’s hardly alone in the confusion. There isn’t an outlet in America that doesn’t distinguish between “mainstream” and “social” media.

But what is the real difference? The largest newspaper in America is the Wall Street Journal, with a circulation north of 2.4 million. (It’s also owned by Rupert Murdoch, in case critics of a liberal media forgot).

Compare that to Facebook, which functions like any other news outlet, with curated headlines and all-flavored news and feature stories. A recent Pew Research study found that 68% of Americans have accounts on Facebook.

That’s a circulation of 218 million.

The same applies to myriad “social” media sites: Instagram would have a circulation of 89.9 million; Pinterest, 83.5 million; Twitter, 67.4 million.

Even the term in a misnomer. If something qualifies as social media, by definition it is also renting property in MainstreamVille. How do we even claim separation, particularly when the largest news outlet in the United States decided a presidential election? How does it remain spared of fake news claims?

The truth is, media is like pizza. You get what you ordered, or you go out of business. Does anyone honestly lay claim to the notion that “mainstream” media refuses to report real news because it would rather report on Kim Kardashian’s ass? That it wants to secretly slip the public pap, like giving a fussy baby a spoonful of Gerber’s by making an airplane noise?

So let’s ratchet down the vitriol, Mr. Harris, Dawkins, Tyson et al. You’re criticizing a club to which you belong.

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Dear Esteemed Colleagues: Please, Shut the Fuck Up

 

I just watched the umpteenth interview with an apoplectic reporter proclaiming the sky was falling (or, as I call it, Chicken Littling) after the latest rumor to circulate from the Trump administration: that he may deport all press to the Executive Office Building next door to the White House.

To hear them, you’d think Trump had just cut the ribbon on a new Gulag for journalists (that’s not due to be completed till 2018. He says the New York Times will pay for it.).

But, as is our tradition will all things Interweb-related, we swine don’t recognize the pearls we wear.

It wouldn’t be the first time. We began our professional descent when we charged for the print version of news, but not the electronic. The porn industry alone should have been a red flag lesson that giving your product away for free is a rickety business model.

Then we didn’t protect the title “social media,”  and even recognized it as an actual thing. It isn’t. The reason you don’t hear about “social surgeons” and “social pilots” is because the medical and aviation industries would sue infringers faster than an Uber training video (13 minutes on YouTube).

Now we are losing our collective wits over the possible eviction, as well as word that Trump may communicate with the press the way he communicates with the public (and, apparently, staff): In 140 characters or less.

To which I say this: Please be true.

Any reporter who has spent more than 4 minutes behind a notepad knows the truth about news conferences: They never contain news. They are simply a cliche delivery system for athletes, celebrities and politicians offering different riffs on the same tune: One Game at a Time, My Fellow Americans, It’s Just an Honor Being Nominated.

By comparison, Twitter is mana from heaven.

Consider his post-Nov. 8 tweets: He blasted Republican lawmakers as pussies, ripped Arnold Schwarzenegger’s performance on The Apprentice, publicly described the CIA and FBI as rife with rubes, hailed a dictator as cunning and, perhaps most egregiously, called Meryl Streep overrated.

Imagine if Obama — or any previous president — said any of those in a news conference. We’d be tripping over each other to get to the computer to file the story first.

Now it’s delivered directly to our phones. As soon as Senators and Representatives see it. The only lag time a reporter faces when writing a Trump-tweet story is how fast the writer can type.

The president’s tweets even create stories where none would have existed. In one missive, he wrote that a nemesis’ actions were “unpresidented.” Had that been a press conference, reporters would have unwittingly corrected the error, assuming that if Trump knew how to say the word, he knew how to spell it.

And we would never have gotten the opportunity to write: “Sorry, Donny, there’s no such word as ‘unpresidented.’ Or even ‘unpresidential,’ despite all evidence to the contrary.” And if you do need a talking head, you have the always-entertaining Kellyanne Conway, whose face looks like it was crushed by another horse’s face.

Finally, follow Fourth Estaters: What makes you think that the threat is any more feasible than, say, draining the swamp or making America great again? Trump would never reject the media; he lives to be in it. We complete him.

To quote our new precedent: Sad!

 

 

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