Turning inner space into outer space

May 25, 2021

Tweet roundups take journalism to a new low

Never mind the outrageous click-bait headlines that don't match the story. Never mind the press releases that are copied and pasted verbatim.

The so-called journalism that's really been grinding my gears lately is the tweet roundup.

Here's how the formula works. First, do a lame summary of some major event that's trending. Second, search Twitter for reactions. Third, embed a dozen of the most inflammatory tweets into your story. If you want to seem balanced, try to find a few that take an opposite stance.

You might think this is lazy journalism, but it's just the opposite. This is the story you write when you're required to churn out stories by the dozen throughout the day.

It's making the most of the news of the moment. Sure, these stories are terrible, but quality is not the point. The point is to keep readers engaged for a few more minutes until the next thing trends. Advertisers demand it.

When I come across a story like this, I refuse to read it. I have no idea who these people being quoted are since none of them use their real names. And even if they did, who cares what a bunch of random strangers wrote as a knee-jerk reaction? Am I supposed to admire how clever and witty they are?

And it's getting worse. In the past you could be sure that what was being quoted was indeed from Twitter because it was embedded from Twitter. Lately I've been seeing stories where they don't even bother doing that. All you get is a quote that the writer purports to be a tweet.

Maybe it was from Twitter. Maybe it wasn't. With standards this low, they could write anything and say it was from Twitter. How could anyone possibly check?

More and more, I'm thinking the solution is for every reputable news service — big and small — to put its content behind a paywall. If you want solid, reliable news, you should have to pay for it.