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Tuesday, 21 July 2020 10:58

Twitter destroying journalism? Get a grip, old chap

Twitter destroying journalism? Get a grip, old chap Image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images from Pixabay

One often sees claims being made that Twitter has destroyed journalism. This kind of assertion seems a bit over the top given that journalists are perfectly capable of destroying the profession on their own. But it is worth examining the reasons why this kind of hyperbole is being flung around.

Old-school journalists are not used to being questioned when they write anything. They take umbrage when that happens; how dare anyone question my take on the issue? It is the equivalent of holy writ.

Each journalist considers himself or herself the last word on any subject on which they choose to pronounce. The last thing they want is for someone to point out that they, like the emperor in the well-known fairy tale, have no clothes.

Twitter allows any Tom, Dick or Harry to poke fun at a class of people who take themselves very seriously. And that annoys this pompous class no end. The reaction from journalists is to describe Twitter as a sewer.

But they forget that the people on Twitter have always been around, voicing their views on other forums or perhaps in gossip sessions. The only difference is that they now have an organised set-up on which they can congregate and ridicule the pundits.

And the pundits don't like it one bit. Their response is typical: try and throw mud at the accuser, make them out as some kind of oddball, some kind of element who is threatening the very fabric of society.

But the irony is that these same pundits also use Twitter and expect to be immensely popular on the platform that they refer to as a sewer. Why would you do that?

One of the problems is the way people approach Twitter. Every one and his dog wants to use it as a marketing platform. Nobody comes to listen, everyone wants to broadcast their opinions and become famous if only for a day or two.

The gang who hurl insults at the pompous ones aka journalists also want to be popular and well-known. One reason why they keep irritating well-known blowhards is to gain a name through the blowhard's own popularity.

Journalists have not adjusted to the idea that Twitter is just a mirror of society. All that you find on Twitter is there in real life too. It is just hidden much better.

Twitter has thus become a convenient scapegoat for anyone who feels offended. And woe to anyone in administrative ranks who takes Twitter seriously and is influenced by opinions on the platform.

The pompous ones won't stand for that. They see red. But in the process, all they are doing is displaying their own intolerance. Mind you, these are people who claim to support free speech. The only problem is that they don't support it for others. They are a thin-skinned bunch who take offence right away.

Twitter cannot destroy anything. The opinions of Twitter users cannot destroy anything either. But what can destroy journalism and any other profession is the people who work in this line and propagate intolerance.

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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