Opinion: Keep Twitter off the airwaves

Staff Writer

When I step into my dad’s car Tuesday night, he immediately directs my attention to the radio: a breaking news story, barely 20 minutes old. A man with an assault rifle ran into the food court of an Oregon mall and opened fire a few hours ago. The reporters have adopted the customary solemn, almost reverent tone they reserve for such events and are laying out the details.

But before I’ve settled comfortably into my car seat, the coverage is suddenly sounding dull and mundane, and no wonder. The reporters have decided to stop reporting and instead read us their Twitter feed.

If it was an effort to make the listeners feel closer to the shoot-out witnesses, it was a misguided one. The first tweet says something along the lines of “Stuck in back room because there was a mall shooting! Wow! I’m fine, FYI.”

Awesome. Who needs journalism when you can have Twitter?

There are those who will go so far as to say that Twitter IS journalism. True, Twitter can function as the spread of truthful and informational experiences for the public consumption. But people wouldn’t go to journalism school and spend years honing their writing skills if any idiot with two eyes and a Smartphone could get the same job done effectively.

Twitter is journalism the same way a toddler’s finger painting is fine art. It can be useful for some things and very entertaining when handled correctly, but is as varied as its contributors, many of whom are boring or unreliable.

The only thing worse than writing a tweet that makes a shoot-out sound silly is being a professional journalist reading that tweet on the air. Could they really have had nothing better to run so early in the coverage? Was there nothing better they could have said?

Reading redundant tweets on what should be respectable news shows seems to be becoming a habit among broadcast journalists. It’s a senseless habit that takes the show’s level of sophistication, interest and quality down about seven notches every time it’s employed.

I can only blame America’s infatuation with new technology. Perhaps we need a few years to get a feel for where social networking belongs and where it doesn’t. Twitter is a whole nest of controversies unto itself, but there is one thing that is absolutely certain: it needs to get the heck off the radio and let the anchors do the storytelling.

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