In recent years, the world of journalism has adapted to the constantly changing standards brought about by the rise of social media. Whether it be news pieces by legacy news sources such as the BBC or clickbait articles your family members share, social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat have become saturated with news stories.
Twitter serves an important journalistic function, as it welcomes established media organizations and non-journalists to share news as it happens in real time. With the current mistrust of mainstream media and the rise of “fake news”—popularized by President Donald Trump—Twitter is emerging as a reputable source for news.
Twitter is the perfect environment for citizen journalists who are free of corporate interests or political ties. Thus, they are capable of sharing information without the type of biases that bigger media outlets may have. Furthermore, Twitter allows marginalized groups that are often ignored by the mainstream media to have a voice and to discuss complex or controversial issues that often go unreported.
Citizens have become increasingly critical, however, of the news media. In the wake of the 2016 presidential election, many media consumers are skeptical of big-name news sources, such as MSNBC, Fox News, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. Americans mistrust both the liberal media and ultra-conservative sources alike. Seventy-four percent of Americans feel that news organizations offer one-sided accounts of stories, according to a recent study from journalism.org.
Twitter, as a news source, in no way provides unbiased news, but it also does not claim to—which makes it more ethical in practice. Mainstream news organizations pride themselves on neutrality and objectivity, whereas Twitter users make no such claims and often use their opinions to make tweets more appealing and provocative.
Media scholars have debated the existence of truly unbiased news for years, as the mere selection of news stories requires some form of opinion. This growing interest in editorial or “soft” news makes Twitter an ideal platform, as we are given accounts from people with explicit interests and who have lived experiences that provide a perspective that traditional journalism cannot.
Twitter also addresses another key problem with legacy news organizations: their underrepresentation of marginalized groups. Complex issues such as police brutality, reproductive rights and transgender rights are rarely discussed in the mainstream media.
Thus, Twitter has become a jumping-off point in starting discourse about these issues, where members of underrepresented communities are able to share their lived experiences and opinions. Twitter serves as a platform to communicate, to engage and to educate one another in an interactive way.
A perfect example of Twitter’s effectiveness is the #BlackLivesMatter movement. This movement began on Twitter in response to the 2013 death of Trayvon Martin and has since become an ideological centerpiece of the modern civil rights movement. Twitter users described their personal experiences with racism, as they tweeted updates on rallies and protests in order to spread information on the numerous police shootings that were overlooked by the mainstream press.
This in no way means that all information from Twitter is trustworthy, or even remotely true. But our skepticism toward mainstream, legacy journalistic sources could cause a huge shift in how we consume news—and Twitter is ideal in its personalized, openly subjective and conversational nature.
While Twitter can be dangerous in that it allows certain newly-elected presidents to tweet unfounded claims, it subsequently creates a dialogue in which users can respond with instantaneous critique.