Okay, Twitter Isn’t Ruining Political Journalism. But It Sure Is Hurting Debate Coverage.

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Via Twitter, I’ve gotten a fair amount of pushback on my post this morning titled “How Twitter Is Ruining Political Journalism.” I blame my editors. They spent years trying to get me to write less boring headlines, and their nagging finally worked! But sometimes it leads me astray. Just for the record, then:

  • The headline was hyperbolic. Obviously Twitter has had both positive and negative effects on political journalism.
  • One of those positive effects is that readers get lots of instant reporting from journalists.
  • One of the negative effects is that journalists now feel like they have to spew out mountains of instant reporting to stay in business.
  • Another positive effect is that chattering between reporters is now more public than before. If you’re going to chatter, the rest of us might as well get to hear it.
  • But a negative effect is that reporters now chatter more than ever. In the past, there really were some limitations on this dictated by physical circumstances.

Debate coverage is an extreme case. Reporters should actively want to develop their own opinions about the candidates’ performances. They should actively want to avoid letting the rest of the herd influence them. That’s just common sense. After they’ve done that and put their thoughts down on paper, they’ll want to get reactions from various folks who have campaign roles, but even then there’s no real reason they should be interested in reactions from other reporters. There’s no reason to be afraid of having a different take than everyone else.

If you’re covering a riot or a burning building, that’s different. Twitter can be an important part of keeping abreast of what’s going on. But political debates are different. Twitter may be fun, but doing your job comes first. Turn it off until the debate is over.

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We've never been very good at being conservative.

And usually, that serves us well in doing the ambitious, hard-hitting journalism that you turn to Mother Jones for. But it also means we can't afford to come up short when it comes to scratching together the funds it takes to keep our team firing on all cylinders, and the truth is, we finished our budgeting cycle on June 30 about $100,000 short of our online goal.

This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

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