Saturday, April 25, 2015

Twitter is My News Channel


For the past year I’ve found myself regularly missing newscasts on television as I find other things to do. This gets particularly common this time of year, when the broadcast of Red Sox games, usually from the East Coast, overlaps the broadcast of local and national news on the networks.




I used to be a news junkie, back in the day when reporters became anchormen (and they were all men). They started out in newspapers and radio and, as television grew to be the most-consumed medium, field reporters. Names like Huntley and Brinkley and Mike Wallace and John Cameron Swayze and Douglas Edwards graced our television screens at six o’clock. At one time, Walter Cronkite was the most trusted man in America.




In the early days of cable news, I thrilled to Wolf Blitzer reporting live from Baghdad on CNN during the Gulf War. If you wanted to know what was happening in the world, you could tune into CNN 24/7 and find out.

But, over time, the reporters were replaced with pretty faces who were visually appealing, had pleasant voices, and couldn’t pronounce words of more than two syllables correctly. Instead of reports on what is going on in the world, we now have who was eliminated as a contestant on the network’s most popular “reality” show. CNN and FoxNews spend hours with “talking heads” blathering and speculating on what the news might mean rather than giving us more news.
And then I started seeing regular segments on breaking news stories that started out with “Here is what we’re seeing on Twitter” or “His Facebook page tells us…”. Huh? Since when did social media become a reliable news source?

I’m sure half of you looked up at the headline for this post to verify you remembered what I was going to write about correctly. You did. Because I discovered that most of what was being reported as “breaking news” on television, I’d already read on Twitter.

This started when I discovered @WhatsUpTucson, a local guy who regularly tweets traffic accidents, police activity, and fires, along with lost and found dogs and such. Since people in town know he shares information, they tweet him with what’s going on in their neighborhood, often with pictures, which he retweets. Most of this stuff never makes the local news, although I find it of interest.

I often look at Twitter during commercial breaks—which have become so numerous and so long that there are times I can’t watch the shows I tuned in for—and noticed comments about events happening around the world. Again, this hadn’t been on television news and often wasn’t on CNN which, in the evenings, has switched to canned programs, just like the Weather Channel doesn’t do live weather at night (except for when there’s a major weather event affecting the United States). Many times it’s hours or even days before stories from around the world make our network news.

So I started following Reuters and Agence-France Presse and the BBC on Twitter. We live in a global village. No longer can we be isolationist and just be concerned about what happens in Washington or New York or Tucson, Arizona. What happens in China or Africa or South America affects us. Climate change is a global problem. And the foreign news agencies cover these stories a lot more often and in a lot more depth than our news-as-entertainment channels in America.

I follow NASA and the US Navy and Discover Magazine and the Hubble Telescope and Universe Today because science news isn’t covered at all.

So I’m skipping the evening news more and more often, even when there isn’t a conflicting Red Sox game. Because I get my news on Twitter.

Picture Credits:
Twitter Logo from https://about.twitter.com/press/brand-assets
Walter Cronkite By NASA/Bill Ingalls [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
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