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Separating the Tweet from the Chaff

There are tweets and there is chaff and the two need to be separated. Isn’t this clearer than the hair on you know who’s head? We’ve got too many tweets and way too much chaff these days and far too little separating of the two going on.

On the Sunday morning news shows this week, when Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said he didn’t keep up with the latest tweet, the anchor responded earnestly, “You’d better start reading every one of Donald Trump’s tweets!”

Then, a panelist noted that we’ve spent more time following tweets than we have covering the tragedy in Syria.

And then a guest, a media professor, finally went where none of the other pundits had been quite willing to go. She asked whether it is really necessary for the media to cover each and every one of the President-elect’s tweets.

How deeply concerned we should all be, as citizens, that this is even a question for our media professionals, faced as we all have been with so much social media that has been designed to provoke, distract or confuse. It has been as if, to media professionals, this is Axiom One: “Every tweet is news.” And this is Axiom Two: “Lots of tweets makes lots of news.”

We have become so busy chasing the latest shiny object, the latest electronic utterance, no matter how deliberately provocative, that we—we the people, we the public who wants to be informed, we the media whose business is … whose business is … Wait a minute … What is the media’s business? Tweet chasing?

This cannot be, because if the major media outlets put every tweet on television, then the distinction between possible news, fake news and real news becomes impossibly blurred.

By reacting to every single bit of babble, the media becomes part of the babble. By reacting to each and every tweet, no matter how powerful the tweeter, a media outlet loses its vitality as a value-added source of information—with the emphasis on inform.

There is wheat and there is chaff and the baking of a loaf worth breaking depends on their being separated.

I look forward to breaking bread with the television journalist who has the courage to announce publicly: I am not going to give air time to every tweet. I am going to do what I can to provide the public with the results of investigation, research and analysis; to encourage informed, long-term thinking; and, to diminish, not add to, the babble of the moment. (Ratings, shmatings. And who knows, they might just go up … Now, pass the bread!)

8 replies
  1. Kathy
    Kathy says:

    Well said Woody! As a former journalist who long ago was required to find 2 reliable sources before writing anything, I suspect a tweet wouldn’t have qualified back in the day. Wise words to all the media. I hope they listen.

  2. Bob Niederman
    Bob Niederman says:

    There is a reason why people do not trust journalists. It’s because they have forgotten, long ago, what the goal of the profession is. The reason why they report tweets is because it has become their custom to report whatever the “boss” says. The “talking heads” are also reporting what their boss says. I hear very little clear thinking on TV or other news outlets. Very little sounds fresh, new, or even clear. It almost all sounds canned and designed to manipulate thinking rather than to educate, enlighten, or inform. Since their goal is to manipulate, tweets are a pretty good format. Thought is not required or expected.

  3. Kathi Squires
    Kathi Squires says:

    Thank you Woody. My father worked for the AP office located under the golden dome in Montpelier, VT. Ehyup, the capital. I’m tired of the Chaff not being separated. Nice visual Woody. I want to thank you, and the first journalist who stands up and starts reporting like a journalist should. What’s journalism anyway? What did happen to investigation, research, and analysis of the subject. Currently, I don’t listen to or watch TV. Currently, I don’t read the paper. I’d like to make the bread for you and the TV Journalist who has the courage and wants to speak the truth. Now that would be fun.

  4. Brigid Benson
    Brigid Benson says:

    Wise words indeed from Woody as always. I try to limit all that tweet & FB noise and focus on facts from trusted sources, campaigns and helping in a practical way eg belonging to a refugee support group, makes the news on Syria still hard to bear but less so. Buying organic artisan bread from a small business – a small buffer against Monsanto – and it tastes wonderful!

  5. Bob Niederman
    Bob Niederman says:

    A editorial yesterday connected the invasion of Iraq with the rise of Trump. One of Trump’s consistent messages was, “we don’t win anymore!” This resonated well with his audience. This message fit very well with the ongoing disaster in the Middle East- started by our war with Iraq. Most journalists supported that war. The NYT ran many pieces of fake news supporting that war. Colin Powell told the UN that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and showed them photos to prove it. The media reported this implying what Powell said was true. If journalists are unable to do their job, they rightfully lose their job- just like everyone else.

  6. Bob Niederman
    Bob Niederman says:

    If the media are unable or unwilling to discover what is true; if they are unable or unwilling to call out leadership when it states falsehoods for its own designs, then it forfeits its right to exist. Trump has recognized this. He sees the failure of the press to tell the truth and he sees the frustration of the population who are at the mercy of falsehood. His tweets bypass the press and expose the press as a fax machine for power. This situation challenges the press. If it wants to continue to exist, it must assert itself as an entity independent of government. It may yet do this since it’s being openly attacked. It may be forced into the position of telling the truth. This will save it. If it is unable to do this, it will be indistinguishable from the chaos on the internet and will be buried.


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