I will not wave the white flag for Elon Musk

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I’m not leaving Twitter. Not yet.

I understand the reason many are interested in boycotting the social media platform now that Elon Musk has taken control. He seems to be turning it into a Shangri-la for right-wing trolls and hate-soaked propaganda and misinformation and he kicks out journalists from the platform who criticize him or report on him in general. But every day since it took over, at least on my feed, there are still a huge number of everyday people interacting with me or commenting on news or voicing complaints or asking questions related to my coverage on January 6th. and its aftermath.

Every day, I have the honor to tell you, I receive at least one message from a random person thanking me for doing my job the way I see fit.

It touches me, honestly, because I know that people are busy with their own lives and yet, for whatever reason, they take a few minutes to talk to me, and not to unload a hateful tirade, but to offer a little gratitude. or breath. Every time I receive these messages, I am reminded of who I am working for: you. Maybe that seems trite to people more cynical than me, but to be honest, people who make sarcasm and cynicism the cornerstone of their personality bore me to tears of love.

For now, I can still use Twitter as a space to practice journalism. I am, for better or worse, a big believer in journalism as a public service. I am quite frankly a fan in this regard and it is the hill I will die on. This wasn’t controversial when I was working in my first newsroom, but it seems that over the last 10 years it has become an increasingly quaint concept, or at least a concept that has jaded many I know inside and out. out of the world. news industry

I believe that the public is owed this service of journalism and I believe that it is the responsibility of journalists to help people understand power structures so that they can challenge and question them.

I’m not the best journalist in the world, far from it, but every day I learn more about the type of reporter and the person I want to be throughout my career.

I learn by looking at those I respect, I learn by looking at those I don’t. Some of that happens offline. Some of that happens online.

Knowing who you are as a journalist is important if you want to do a good job, but just as important is knowing who you don’t want to be if you want to do a good job.

And for me, right now, I don’t want to be the kind of journalist who runs away from a platform that seems to need more and more of the services that I can provide on it. Right now, I don’t want to be a journalist running from a billionaire with a megaphone. Twitter is not entirely about Elon Musk, although you wouldn’t be totally wrong if you thought that. Twitter is still about the people who use it. And while many of those users are raging racist jerks, many are not.

I am not going to liquidate my properties on Twitter yet because I use it to share my articles. I use it to share the articles of other journalists or academics or analysts that I want to see amplified so that people can read their work and be better informed or ask better questions.

Twitter can be a window to places or moments in the world that would otherwise not be seen. This social media platform can be a force for good. It can be a force for evil. And as long as I see that there’s something good on that platform, or that people are looking for it, I’m not going to give it up completely.

I have built a modest, organic following of around 40,000 people on Twitter since 2017. I have not purchased followers. I just published and methodically use the platform to expand the scope of my work and the scope of other people’s work. And if I’m being completely honest, I think one of the main reasons people follow me on Twitter is not because of my direct reports of ups and downs. I think most of my followers stick around because they really like my live tweets or live coverage of events they might not otherwise be able to witness if a live stream or telecast isn’t available.

People have told me over the years that they like my live tweets because it gives them the nuance they deeply crave and, in their words, they find lacking in a packed 20 or 30 second clip on cable news. .

They like my live tweet threads to be long (often very long) and often very detailed. These are characteristics for which editors often criticize journalists in the typical format.

Now, I’m not criticizing any publisher. Many have saved me from myself and their cuts are often perfectly justified and indeed publishers make you better as a writer.

But long-form journalism has had a popular resurgence in recent years for a reason. The Clickbait as King era may reign supreme, but there’s a constant hunger out there for information that goes beyond the headline, beyond outrage, beyond neatly packaged clips and chyrons.

I like Twitter because I can be concise or prolific in the same thread. I know Twitter has its problems and I know them too. I don’t like it for the same reasons most people don’t: it can be a den of hate. But so can every other social media platform I’ve been on.

There may come a time when Twitter is really and completely unusable to anyone but far-right fundamentalists and their goofball armies because Musk or his acolytes have driven everyone else away.

But that time has not yet come.

I am branching out into social media platforms and have been on Mastodon since Halloween. I like it, although it is not uniform. I’m at the Post Office. I’m game to try anything that gets people engaged or constructively informed about the world they live in.

Therefore, I am not going to self-censor on Twitter. Not yet. I think that is precisely what Musk wants from journalists. I may be on his platform, but I will continue to play by my rules until he forcibly removes me and those like me.

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