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Companies that started with printing presses and horse-drawn carts are now creating real journalism online all day long.

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Elon Musk can know about many things: electric cars, space flights, digging tunnels. But Twitter’s increasingly erratic new owner has proven time and time again that he’s shockingly ignorant when it comes to journalism.

“Newspapers just scour the web and print it,” he tweeted Tuesday afternoon, attributing “SJM” to his son, Saxon James Musk, whom he occasionally quotes on his feed.

Where to begin with such a fundamentally false idea?

First, it hardly makes sense to refer to the “newspaper industry” in 2022. The hundreds of major American journalism organizations that began with printing presses and horse-drawn carts back in the 19th and 20th centuries are now better characterized as: sites that still produce large-scale publication. Today, most of the capital’s dailies dump tens of thousands of papers onto roads and lawns, while their digital copies reach millions of readers with updates throughout the day.

What’s more, those online audiences are no longer limited to the scope of delivery trucks. When big news breaks in Kansas City, it can spread instantly from The Star to Toronto to Nairobi and beyond. It took days or even weeks before the Internet.

And the backbone of these news outlets are the thousands of professional journalists who report, write, edit and publish countless words of journalism every day, as they have done for decades. Newspaper reporters have long rolled their eyes when they hear their stories from the morning paper, sometimes slightly modified, read by radio hosts as they enter the office. Today, traditionally trained journalists are used to watching their hard work go “viral” when it’s stolen (too often unattributed) in someone else’s list, roundup, or social media post.

Musk obviously doesn’t know this, but real journalists don’t take other people’s word for anything as gospel. They check the facts before publishing them. The basic journalistic principles of truth, public service and independence never change, regardless of the method of delivery. When they make mistakes, they correct them transparently.

Traditional newspaper companies operate the world’s largest and most trusted newsrooms in communities. Every day they post hundreds of new, unique stories online about real people and events that can be verified by anyone willing to point out the facts. The “Internet” doesn’t send reporters to City Hall or assign photographers to take pictures of walkouts and house fires. And any digital native news source worth paying attention to focuses its messages on exactly the same practices and ethics as any other respectable news outlet.

Those newsrooms employ editors whose important job is to make sure that what they publish is both factually accurate and fair. The credibility of a journalistic enterprise is its greatest value. If it lies repeatedly and its audience cares, it won’t stick. The Founding Fathers were clear that they believed an independent, free press was crucial to a functioning democracy.

Twitter causes strange brain rot. the more time you spend on it, the more important it seems than it really is. Part of that reality-warping effect is that, as the most time-based of the major social media networks, it’s been the platform of choice for politicians, journalists and many celebrities for several years (though that may change as Musk reinstates Nazi abusers and other malefactors who earned their eviction under the former property).

And as publishers of any media know, taming people’s innately violent nature is a never-ending task. Newspaper letter editors have worked for decades to keep trolls and liars out of their pages. Multiply that difficult task exponentially, and throw in anonymity, and you can see why social media moderation is such a headache.

Musk continues to release what he says are shocking smoking guns in his “Twitter files,” the company’s internal communications picked up by reporters with checkered credentials, showing that Twitter’s former leadership has worked to combat misinformation and abuse from its users. for:

Anyone who has worked in comment moderation sees this debate for what it is; the people responsible for a massive platform that works to limit bad actors’ access to their service. If it seems that so-called “conservative” content has been disproportionately suppressed, it can be laid at the feet of every ex-guard on the right who has surrendered truth to the likes of Donald Trump and his alternative facts.

Musk seems determined to hijack the Twitter plane he bought, and a smooth landing looks less likely with every tweet. (By the way, Tesla stock owners – don’t you wonder what he’s doing for you since he seems to be obsessively fighting his critics online all day?) As one of the most popular users, he thought this Twitter thing would be easy. . It’s becoming more and more apparent that even the Chief Tweeter doesn’t know the difference between a journalist and an online troll.

This story was originally published December 20, 2022 16:49.

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