I will not wave the white flag for Elon Musk

I’m not leaving Twitter. Not yet.

I understand why many are interested in boycotting the social media platform now that Elon Musk has taken control. It seems to be turning him into a Shangri-la for right-wing trolls and hate-soaked propaganda and disinformation, and driving journalists off the platform who criticize him or report on him in general. But every day since he took over, at least in my feed, there’s still a huge number of regular, everyday people interacting with me or commenting on the news or airing their complaints or asking me questions about my beat covering January 6th. and its consequences.

Every day, I humbly tell you, I get at least one message from a random person thanking me for just doing my job the way I think I should.

Honestly, it touches me, because I know people are busy with their lives, and yet, for whatever reason, they take a few minutes to talk to me – and not to send off some hateful tirade, but to offer a little gratitude or encouragement. Whenever I get these messages, I remember who I work for: you. Maybe it seems trite to more cynical people than me, but to be honest, people who make sarcasm and cynicism the cornerstone of their personality bore me to tears which I love.

For now, I can still use Twitter as a space to do journalism. I am, for better or for worse, a big believer in journalism as a public service. I’m a real zealot on this issue and it’s a hill I’ll die on. This wasn’t controversial when I worked in my first newsroom, but it seems to have become an increasingly strange concept in the last 10 years or so, or at least one that many I meet inside and outside of the news industry agree with.

I think the public is owed this service of journalism and I think it is the responsibility of journalists to help people understand power structures so they can challenge and question them.

I’m not the best journalist in the world – far from it – but every day I learn more about the type of reporter and the person I want to be throughout my career.

I learn by watching those I respect, I learn by watching those I disrespect. Some of it happens offline. Some of that happens online.

Knowing who you are as a journalist is important if you want to do a good job, but knowing who you don’t want to be is just as important if you want to do a good job.

And for me, right now, I don’t want to be the type of journalist who runs away from a platform that increasingly needs the services I can provide on it. Right now I don’t want to be a journalist running from a billionaire with a megaphone. Twitter isn’t all about Elon Musk, although you wouldn’t be entirely wrong if you thought so. Twitter is still about the people who use it. And while many of those users are rabid racist jerks, many are not.

I’m not going to clear my Twitter real estate just yet because I use it to share my articles. I use it to share articles by other journalists or academics or analysts that I want to see expanded so that people can read their work and be better informed or ask better questions.

Twitter can be a window into places or moments in the world that would otherwise be unseen. This social media platform can be a force for good. It can be a force for evil. And as long as I see that there is good on that platform, or that people are looking for it, I’m not going to abandon it wholesale.

I’ve built a modest and organic following of about 40,000 people on Twitter since 2017. I didn’t buy followers. I’ve just been methodically setting up and using a platform to expand the reach of my work and the reach of other people’s work. And to be completely honest, I think one of the main reasons people follow me on Twitter isn’t because of my up-and-down straight reporting. I think most of my followers hang out because they really like my live tweets or live events that they wouldn’t otherwise get to witness if live or televised isn’t available.

People have told me for years that they like my live tweets because it gives them the nuance they deeply crave but, they say, miss the packaged 20- or 30-second clip on cable news.

They like that my live tweets are long (often very long) and often very detailed. These are the features journalists are often asked for by their editors or publishers in a typical format.

Now, I’m not knocking any editor. Many have saved me from myself and their cuts are often perfectly justified and indeed, editors make you a better writer.

But long-form journalism has had a popular resurgence in recent years for a reason. The Clickbait as King era may rule, but there is a constant hunger for information that goes beyond the headlines, beyond the outrage, beyond the neatly packaged clips and chirons.

I like Twitter because I can be cordial or prolific on the same topic. I know Twitter has its problems and I’m familiar with them. I don’t like it for the same reasons most people don’t: it can be a den of hate. But so can every other social media platform I’ve ever been on.

There may come a time when Twitter will be truly and completely unusable for anyone but far-right fundamentalists and their dumbass armies because Musk or his minions have driven everyone else away.

But that time has not yet come.

I am diversifying into social media platforms and have been on Mastodon since Halloween. I like it even though it’s not flawless. I’m at the Post Office. I like to try anything that engages or informs people in a constructive way about the world they live in.

So I’m not going to self-censor on Twitter. Not yet. I think that’s exactly what Musk wants from the press. I may be on his platform, but I will continue to play by my rules until he forcibly removes me and those like me.

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