For some time now, I’ve noticed reporters inserting tweets into their digital copy or referencing them in print. This is fine and often tweets are newsworthy. Look no further than the current presidential campaign for evidence of that.
However, I’ve also noticed reporters using those tweets in place of reporting. Take, for instance, the image above, which came from an ESPN story about the New England Patriots trading linebacker Jamie Collins to the Cleveland Browns earlier this week. The writer was looking to understand what other players thought of it and stumbled on the tweet you see, which is from former teammate Chandler Jones. We are led to believe “Shheeshhh” is some kind of comment on this trade because … well, I don’t know why.
The L.A. Times drew on angry social media rants after Beyoncé had the audacity to sing on the Country Music Awards the other night. In a way, this allows the writer to seek opinion beyond the usual suspects or the reach of her Rolodex, which is good. But it also creates a false narrative. Would whomever is behind @torimarie25 really suggest Beyoncé “go home” if asked by a reporter? Would that Facebook commenter really say, “SHE DOES NOT BELONG!!!”? And would she scream it like that? Should we allow her to say why she thinks that?
Most of us have had occasion to write things on social media we’d like back, things we would never say if asked for a reasoned opinion. I think when we use social media to look for the most outlandish opinion, we are doing a disservice to the truth and finding an artificial way to create divides between people who may be rational and more nuanced than they seem in 140 characters.