Why #twitter won’t replace journalism

In response to Mic Wright No journalism cannot be replaced by tweets

Thank you for your defense of journalism, an often emotionally exhausting — and physically precarious — undertaking, which involves embedding reporters within a civilian or military combat zone; so, between the exchange of gunfire and the sudden chaos triggered from a sniper’s rifle, in a street fight between police officers and rioters or soldiers and jihadists — in an effort to convey the political and sectarian rivalries between, respectively, law enforcement and neighborhood gangs, or the contest of wills between the U.S. Army and al Qaeda — our knowledge of these events does not spontaneously flash across the screens of our smartphones and tablets without a professional having risked life and limb to write about these stories with detail, context and an understanding of the broader implications for peace and freedom throughout America and the Middle East.

There is no tweet, or series of tweets, that can reduce a great social conflict into a 140-character-count summary about, say, race relations and the struggle for voting rights, civil rights and human rights, or ignore the religious convulsions of a theocratic foe whose stampede across Iraq, Syria and Lebanon is the first foretaste of a bitter cup of hatred and defeat, unless there are journalists able to chronicle this history within the broader milieu of the everlasting war between tyranny and liberty.

Remember the legacy of Edward R. Murrow and his legion of reporters, or consider the contributions of William Shirer, each man a voice of independence and analysis from the eye of a gathering storm of the Nazi onslaught and the rapacious policies of Adolf Hitler.

Recall their meticulous itemization of the Nuremberg Laws and the Third Reich’s persecution of the Jews, in addition to their rooftop reportage during the Luftwaffe’s nighttime bombings of London, while, separated by the vast expanse of the Atlantic and the prolonged neutrality of the New World toward the embattled people of the Old, these journalists deliver their broadcasts about the inferno; a continental conflagration and a genocidal campaign to feed the crematoria with the victims of the most wicked brand of anti-Semitic violence and murder imaginable.

The facts, gruesome though they may be and comprehensive as they must be, should never yield to the inane policies of Twitter.

Would we discard the magisterial prose of Edward Gibbon and the authoritative quality — and the authorial voice — of The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, in favor of the brevity of a worthless tweet?

Would we subordinate the Book of Common Prayer and the beauty of the Psalms and sacraments for the brutalist “style” of the Internet in general and the use of of the hashtag (on Twitter) in particular?

Why, then, would we even entertain the idea that Twitter can replace journalism — that it is a form of journalism — when it is nothing more than the principal digital domain of the paranoid, the psychotic, the conspiratorial and the confused?writershattypewriter

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