Syndicate content

Oh those Twits

21 Mar 2010
Posted by Shannon

I’m immortalized in the Twit-o-sphere this week speaking in tongues.

 At least that’s what the 140 character limit reduced me to. On Saturday I did a short talk on media literacy for skeptics at SkeptiCamp 2010. They asked me to explain why the woo-woo gets so much play in publications that used to do journalism…

 Like I know?

 But I agreed to explain the mechanics of the business. The word media, for example, is a plural and if you don’t say it that way, you’ll misunderstand the landscape. Until you understand that the news media ARE different outlets with a wide range of purposes and goals you’ll go on thinking the media IS some kind of cohesive monolith that behaves in only one way. (And with that kind of thinking, you’ll soon be qualified to get a PhD in communications…)  

Journalists and the corporate media managers are two different groups with different sets of goals and values, which are frequently at war with each other. (Just you try reconciling “the public interest” with “monetizing editorial.”)

 “News media are in the business of selling eyeballs to advertisers – journalism is the bait on the hook for attracting those eyeballs,” I said, explaining the business model, as I’ve done dozens of times in classrooms, on radio, and in print. “The only people in the business of journalism are journalists. We sell it to publishers.”

 “There’s no profit in selling journalism directly readers – not enough to pay for the cost of doing the journalism. They tried it in the 19th century -- sponsorships, subscriptions -- they’re trying it now on the Internet. It didn’t work then; it isn’t working now.”

 And here’s what showed up on Twitter:

"Only journalists are in the business of journalism. Newspapers are in the business of eyeballs."

 Well thank you for that twit Joe Fulgham.

And therein lies the problem of Twitter for anything other than advertising: it’s the bumper-sticker of media. And not every idea can be reduced to a bumper sticker. The ones that can are usually suspect. 

But who am I to buck trends? The next time I’m invited to talk to the public as a professional courtesy, I think I’ll skip the actual speaking and just send’em the heds on Twitter.

“News unread. Democracy dead. Publishers rich. Voters get twits.”