Look, I donâ€™t want to have a go at The Australian. Really. I donâ€™t. But with Posetti-Twittergate, and then Geoff Elliott having a go at Jonathan Powles for his tweet that echoed theÂ #iamspartacus thing with Paul Chambers, one thing seems certain. The newspaper doesnâ€™t understand that Twitter is not a newspaper.
The folks at TheOz are not alone. Sadly, thereâ€™s still plenty of established media outlets just like them — seemingly insistent on defining journalism in terms of their specific workflows that produce their specific media outputs. They look at Twitter, see that itâ€™s different, and reckon itâ€™s wrong becauseâ€¦ itâ€™s different. Well, der.
A newspaperâ€™s daily production workflow produces final, fixed news stories, frozen into ink on paper forever and ever amen. Twitter is a real-time medium. Twitter is a conversation. Like any conversation, itâ€™s full of stumbles, mis-speakings and corrections. Through dialogue, some sort of shared truth emerges.
Twitterâ€™s a lot like talkback radio, I reckon. Random callers — Quelle horreur! Untrusted anonymous sources! — go on air and make claims. Others get to refute them. The producer phones authoritative sources for comment. Through dialog, some sort of shared truth emerges. Eventually. Or not.
On talkback radio, on Twitter, we get to hear and see the sausages of truth being made. And itâ€™s not pretty.
So when Oz editor Chris Mitchell complains that Julie Posetti didnâ€™t contact him to get his side of the story before tweeting, he completely misses the point.
Posetti was tweeting about what was happening, live, in front of her. Mitchell could have joined the conversation any time he liked. Even if he didnâ€™t want to dirty his paws by using his own Twitter account, Iâ€™m willing to bet that if heâ€™d emailed Posetti — or gotten @overingtonc to be his cut-out again — sheâ€™d have tweeted his comments on his behalf.
Now as Jonathan Holmes has written, whether Posettiâ€™s tweets were accurate is still an open question. As Guy Rundle reminded us yesterday, Twitter is still â€śa form of publishing, not post-legal freeware pixiedustâ€ť. Whatever the medium, defamation is defamation. But thatâ€™s another issue.
What interests me is that Mitchell chose not to join the conversation where the conversation was happening. I suspect thatâ€™s because to do so would be tacit acknowledgement of Twitterâ€™s legitimacy as a medium. We wouldnâ€™t want that.
Geoff Elliott, meanwhile, is concerned that some jokes on Twitter are mock threats, such as Powlesâ€™ tweet, â€śCrap! Mitchell is sueing [sic] @julieposetti! The Oz has a week to get its sh-t together or Iâ€™m blowing the place sky-high. #twitdef #iamspartacus.â€ť
â€śI suggest that it is completely inappropriate for an ANU academic in the college of law to be even cracking jokes like that,â€ť wrote Elliott. â€śCall me old fashionedâ€¦â€ť
Again, Twitter is not a newspaper. Itâ€™s a communications medium. Anyone can use it any way they like. Like cracking a joke. Even journalists can use Twitter for things other than journalism.
Like getting into fights.
Elliott is a quiet voice on Twitter. Mitchell isn’t there at all, as far as I know. So it was left to Oz media writer Sally Jackson to face the braying mob this week — and she was curiously defensive.
Scroll back through Jackson’s Twitter feed and you’ll you’ll see her calling critics “dill” and “troll” and “Twitter’s unfortunate bullymob element”. In fairness, she was hit with hard criticism. But as Andrew Elder noted, for a media expert Jackson’s responses were “astonishingly inept”.
“She won’t participate in a debate that she can’t frame. Criticism that addresses the issue is lumped in with ad-hominem attacks, so that any criticism of her article is a personal attack upon her. That’s why reasonable challenges are met with shrieks like “nasty”, “troll” etc. Jackson’s responses remind me of people who flap their arms wildly when set upon by flying insects: this doesn’t actually repel the insects or even discourage them much, it only gets the person upset, diminishes their dignity and makes further attacks more likely rather than less.”
Weller reckons that media outlets â€“ as well as politicians, the police, prosecutors and judges — are part of â€śa conspiracy of sentimentâ€ť, all acting from the same unspoken emotional base. â€śThis can be summarised as: they hate you,â€ť he wrote.
â€śThey hate that you undermine their carefully crafted messages and turn them into jokes. They hate that you are forming new methods of entertainment that they donâ€™t understand. They hate that you can organise yourselves without them knowing about it. They hate that power has been democratised. They hate that you get at content for free. They hate it, hate it, hate it. So when the opportunity arises to stamp on one of you snivelling social media types, they grasp it with both hands.â€ť
My guess is thereâ€™s still a lot more hate to come.