Why is the New York Times TV critic shrugging off Twitter?
It's so easy for an established journalist to come to a hot new technology trend and either gush uncontrollably or slag all over the proceedings. Either choice whiffs the most important duty of a good critic; to deliver a fair and reasonable analysis so the reader can learn something.
The latest story to spike my blood pressure came in Saturday's New York Times, when TV critic Alessandra Stanley decided to take on a subject Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz had already written about five days earlier -- the explosion of TV anchors using the micro-blogging service Twitter.
But unlike Kurtz's thoughtful look at the substantive and silly ways TV types are using the technology, Stanley decided to focus on how this newfangled distraction has fed anchor egos and "turned journalism into a year-round, ever-updated “Dear Friends and Family” Christmas newsletter."
Centering her column on the superficial messages TV personalities broadcast to their legions of followers, Stanley uses these brief updates to indict Twitter use in general, sounding a lot like those office curmudgeons who couldn't quite get the hang of that World Wide Web thing 15 years ago.
It's too bad she didn't take a little more time to research the subject. As somebody who has maintained a Twitter page for a while now, I can say with some authority that it does what a lot of online media often achieves: It levels the playing field.
Kurtz found Nightline anchor Terry Moran offered substantive Tweets previewing his interviews, but my experience has been many celebrity Twitter pages aren't particularly useful -- because celebrities, including TV anchors, often won't say anything substantive enough to make an impact.
Where I get my best tweets are from news services, fellow TV critics, big brain thinkers about media such as NYU professor Jay Rosen and the occasional celebrity willing to be real online (Juno screenwriter Diablo Cody, left, and Wendy and Lisa, the former Prince backing players who now score TV shows such as Heroes, are always interesting).
For those who haven't used it much, Twitter basically allows you to broadcast messages in 140-character bursts to anyone with an account who agrees to "follow" your output. You can follow people you find interesting and embed links to other blogs, Web sites or video as part of your message.
I've found that the conversations I have with followers on Twitter and Facebook -- my Tweets are linked to Facebook, so my status line changes every time I post a message on Twitter -- can help me develop stories I'm writing, most recently when I was covering the Golden Globes from Los Angeles via Twitter and evaluating Super Bowl commercials. And I always pass along links to my columns and blog posts.
Kurtz also reported this in his piece, noting how Meet the Press host David Gregory and CNN anchor Rick Sanchez use Tweets to help shape their work.
Too bad Stanley didn't use Twitter to find out a little more about tweeting before slagging it off in a column; it's another way of linking to readers and sources in a way that suggests it is much more than a passing fad.