Why Do Journalists Prefer Twitter to Blogging?

This is the question posed by a blogger at Lead and Gold.  (It’s a riff on a conversation between Howard Kurtz and Ben Smith on Reliable Sources.)

My answer, based on the comments of many professional print journalist friends over the last two years or so?  For professional, paid journalists, Twitter is partly a way to gather new information quickly, on the demand side.  But for professional journalists, it’s mostly a channel of distribution. It’s a way of getting your stuff out there, in one sentence an an automatically generated link that you can send from your smartphone.  It’s not about furthering the conversation in any qualitative sense, it’s just about advertising your stuff in the medium that everyone else is following.  It’s distribution.

Twitter for the paid professionals is also about signaling behavior to your peers.  It’s about showing that you’re part of the conversation.  (Stendhal once referred to this utterly crucial social behavior of the salon, as “keeping oneself in countenance.”  It’s an interesting and telling phrase; this use of a word for “face.”  That’s the social signaling function of Twitter.)

Blogging, by contrast, is content.  That content might be new, in which case it is time-consuming to create.  Or it’s some form of recycled content.  Nearly all my journalists friends talk about the pressures from managers, desperate to find ways to produce new page views with some online ads attached, to take something already done and repackage it as some “new” thing on the web.  The pressure is intense to produce “content” – but “content” is a particularly ambiguous word in this new economy.  It covers both genuinely new reporting and information, or merely recycled and re-packaged stuff, and the difference doesn’t necessarily matter much in the new journalistic economy.

And the work involved is either paid – but done on speed, as it were, mostly recycling old content, but still time-consuming to reconfigure as “new.”  Or else it’s unpaid, and of course – “no man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money.”

(PS.  I should add that I’ve started a new comment policy for my posts; most of them I’m not opening to comments, and I’ll indicate if a post is opened for comments, as this one is.  I simply don’t have time to review comments to screen out the offensive, annoying, or simply off-topic.  If it’s the kind of post where I think it would be helped by asking what readers think, and so I’d plan to read the comments anyway, I’ll open comments; otherwise not.)

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