I thought I was done blogging about whether top editors should be active on Twitter. Then last night, Lexi Mainland tweeted this:
As her Twitter profile says, she’s an editor on the Times’ interactive news desk. Not exactly agreeing with me (as you’ll see in some subsequent tweets), but sort of agreeing with me. So, given the interest in my criticism of her boss, Dean Baquet, and other top editors who aren’t active on Twitter, and Baquet’s response to me, and the response to Baquet, I thought I’d give the topic at least one more ride and curate last night’s Twitter exchange among several of us:
“Pontificating.” OK, that could be me.
What I’d say here is that Baquet and his predecessors, who have been similarly dismissive of Twitter in terms of personal use, have led a lot of great innovation at the Times. So “suffering” isn’t exactly the right word, and I don’t think I ever said innovation at the Times was suffering. In many respects, it’s been an innovation leader.
But a Times committee studied innovation and said the newsroom needed to do better. That’s true in any newsroom, but no other has identified the need (to my knowledge) as clearly or in as much detail as the Times. Baquet has embraced the report and said he plans to implement its recommendations.
My point is that you lead innovation more effectively by example than by exhortation. But back to the tweets (where I think I made that point):
Valid point: I believe Twitter is a valuable tool for every newsroom leader and editorial-page editor.
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Numbers always demand context.
Twitter is used by “only” 19 percent of Internet-using adults. That was the word Ann Friedman used in a Columbia Journalism Review piece, following up on the discussion of New York Times Twitter use started by Buzzfeed and continued by me, Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet and others.
Friedman’s piece gave reasons why a journalist might want to use Twitter as well as some why you wouldn’t. She’s enthusiastic about Twitter and I applaud her contribution to this discussion. But I’m going to pick at that one word, because others have used that 19 percent figure as a reason to dismiss Twitter. On Twitter and in a comment on Friedman’s post, people zeroed in on that number as a supposed sign that Twitter isn’t important (Ivan is channeling others here, not expressing disdain):
But 19 percent of adult Internet users is a lot. Let’s do the math:
How much differently would Friedman’s piece have read if she had written “a whopping 40 million Americans” instead of “only 19 percent”?
My opening point was that numbers demand context. So here’s some context for you: 19 percent of adult Internet users or 40 million Americans is more than:
The point is: Internet use is huge and 19 percent of its users are a lot of people. Google, Amazon and Facebook have bigger audiences, I presume, maybe a few more. But there aren’t many bigger digital audiences than Twitter’s.
And, as I’ve said many times before, Twitter is an excellent tool for finding sources on breaking news, liveblogging and many other journalism uses that have nothing to do with the potential size of your audience.
Don’t use 19 percent as a measure of how small Twitter is. It’s a measure of how big Twitter is.
Update: I remembered this after initially posting. I made a similar argument here a couple years ago, when the numbers were smaller.
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Posted in Twitter, tagged Alex Howard, Dean Baquet, Jay Rosen, Jeff Jarvis, Mathew Ingram, Matt McFarland, New York Times, Patrick LaForge, Richard Horgan, Twitter on October 7, 2014 |
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Dean Baquet isn’t active on Twitter, but he’s great clickbait. And he’s getting a lot of attention on Twitter today. I hope he’s lurking, as one of his staff assures me:
Last Thursday I blogged that editors who want to lead innovation undercut their efforts
if they aren’t active on Twitter. I mentioned Baquet
, executive editor of the New York Times, and used the screenshot above (now getting its third run here). So, as I normally do when I criticize someone, I invited response from Baquet. I tweeted at him (not likely to get a response, given the topic of the blog).
I also emailed him using the clunky contact form at the Times site. I have no faith in such forms (or in the likelihood that people will respond), so I also asked a friend who works at the times for his email address and emailed him directly. Late yesterday, Baquet responded to my email. This won’t be one of my blogs full of lessons, but here’s one: Email people politely and they often respond. In a later email after I posted his response, Baquet said he responded because “you were fair and persistent.” That combination always serves a journalist well.
Mathew Ingram, who blogged about Baquet, the Times and Twitter before I did, noted that he didn’t get a response: (more…)
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New York Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet has responded to last week’s post which criticized top editors who aren’t using Twitter actively, including Baquet.
I appreciate the response, which is below, combined from two emails. I don’t agree with his observation, but I welcome it. I had my say last week and I’m glad to give him his say here today, without insisting on the last word. I do hope, though, that this post will merit his third tweet:
I do think the fact that I have made so little use of Twitter is fair game for criticism. But I can’t resist an observation. One of the biggest criticisms aimed at my generation of editors is that we created a priesthood, that we decided who was a journalist and who was not. If you hadn’t done cops and courts you weren’t a journalist, etc. That characterization was right on. We deserved the hit.
As I observe the criticism nowadays, you will forgive me for noting that it sounds like a new priesthood is being created, with new rules for entry.
Don’t take that as saying I should not tweet more. I should. Just a warning that each generation of journalists seems so certain they know what it takes to be a journalist.
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