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The Twitter effect


 

This speech from Hugh Winsor is a few months old, but likely remains relevant, perhaps even as an inadvertent commentary on the election just passed.

University of Guelph historian William Christian once wrote that “Parliamentary democracy is what you can get away with.” In many ways, the media establish the limits of  what the government of the day can ‘get away with” and so there is a direct correlation between the vigour, intellect,  judgement, relevance and financial stability of the media and the quality of our civil society.

My concerns about media’s inadequate scrutiny  of the current government and the current Parliament are inevitably tangled up with  the massive structural changes that are coursing through the media industry … Those structural changes are not my principal thrust, however. Rather, it is  changes in attitude and philosophy that concern me more, regardless of the format. One of the biggest impacts of the new platforms is the massive ramping up of the pressure for immediacy … The emphasis on  immediacy means that coverage is essentially episodic, dealing with the here and now, with little context and almost zero followup.


 

The Twitter effect

  1. The Twitter effect seems very similar to the effect of Aaron's blog: it creates a Harper-hater echo chamber which distracted the Liberals from the big picture, and convinced them that they could win just by turning up the rabid partisanship. Twitter and blogs like Aaron were crucial to the Liberals defeat because without them Liberal partisans could not have so easily created an alternative universe for themselves in which the Liberal party would not have to offer any positive appeal to Canadians, and could get by just by fanning the flames of fear and hatred. The Liberals have tried this strategy with diminishing returns for years now, but have only come to rely on it more and more, probably because of the ever-increased echo chamber which Twitter and blogs like Aaron's have provided them with over that period of time. It leads me to wonder whether Aaron would in fact accept any responsibility of the Liberals defeat, because I think that he is partly responsible for these reasons.

    • "could get by just by fanning the flames of fear and hatred"

      You're describing Mr. Harper's campaign. Remember the reckless coalition, the collapsing economy, never ending elections, evil socialists and separatists, etc. etc.

      • Nonsense. A coalition would have been reckless. Every party lays claim to the title of superior economic stewardship. It is perfectly reasonable to invite Canadians to opt for a lasting majority government over unstable minority governments. No one was ever called evil. Your own need to resort to hyperbole illustrates how weak your case is and how demagogic Liberal partisans are. Mr. Harper didn't even craft advertising with, say, the barrel of a gun pointed at viewers who dared to think of voting for an opposition party, as the Liberals did not so long ago.

        • Have you commented under different names in the past, or are you relatively new here?

          • I've commented under several names on-and-off for a long time now, although I sometimes stop looking at the blog (or at least the comment sections) for months at a time. But I'm thinking that this moniker might be so punchy it might finally be time to register under it, except I don't like the idea of having to register each time I want to comment, especially since I go months without posting at all, so I'm not sure that a single moniker might not be a burden.

      • That's fear, but not hatred. The Liberal ads of 2004 – that was hatred.

    • This Con fixation on Aaron's blog is bordeing on creepy. You really need to get around the web a bit more.

      • Imagine: people talking about Aaron's blog on Aaron's blog! Crazy!

  2. " In many ways, the media establish the limits of what the government of the day can ‘get away with”

    And most media people look the other way.

    • Of course, that's why the Globe and Mail ran 9 stories on a university student who was kicked out of a Conservative rally. Nine before I quit counting that is.

      • Oh there's lots of fluff stories….just nothing important.

  3. Hugh Windsor then goes on to use an example of Kady O'Malley liveblogging an F-35 committee hearing to illustrate what he sees as a problem.

    Did we have to know all of this trivia immediately or could it have waited till a regular newscast that might sieve some wheat from the chaff. This blog, which takes up the same time and resources as a journalist doing real work, does nothing to address one of the main issues surrounding the F-35 purchase.

    He makes it clear that he doesn't see Kady's liveblogging experiments as "serious journalism". I don't think this is fair. Liveblogging and Twittering are no substitutes for sober, in depth analysis and hard reporting, but they don't have to be. New platforms can supplement traditional journalism, in new and interesting ways, without overshadowing it or replacing it.

    • Windsor's critique of O'Malley seems like a bit of a cheap shot: I agree with him that if O'Malley's work was the sum total of Canadian journalism there would be a problem. She definitely isn't a "big picture" person. But what she does is extremely valuable in its own way, and I don't see why it has to be mutually exclusive with the kind of journalism Windsor would like to see. On the other hand, Windsor could have been about 1200 times harder on Taber and the blight on the Canadian political scene that she and her ilk represent.

    • My comment cross-posted from Wells's blog above

      PW, at some point in the discussion, you eluded to the influence (or lack thereof) of social media – paraphrasing from memory – you had or were inundated with tweets up the yingyang.

      I hope you and other members of the PPG (and the new honorary ones HQ'd in T.O.) take a hard look back at how the "profession" has evolved over this past year – particularly on twitter. I have long argued here that it is a technological facilitator of groupthink.

      The starkest admission of this trend during this past campaign was when twitter obsesses K O'M, on The House marvelled at how in the past, it took a number of days after the debates for a concensus to emerge in the mainstream media about who won the debate(s) and its implications – but through twitter – a concensus had pretty much emerged before the debates were complete. Unreal.

      But, as an aside, if not for the dogged determination demonstrated by some economists "wanting to get in" – a main one with right leaning views headquartered in Laval- the NDP may have swept Quebec in its entirety. :)

  4. Having suffered through life in the US for a few unfortunate years, I'm happy just that stories can remain in media rotation for multiple days. And they do. I feel like journalists do a fairly reasonable job at reporting the day's events and mentioning the context.

    Perhaps it's a symptom of that perspective, but I worry less about these things than I used to. Analysis -is- there, for those who are interested. There are panels, there are blogs… you can't force-feed analysis to people.

  5. Way to change the subject! Regardless, Wherry's blog certainly isn't solely responsible for the Liberal's plight, and not even close to primarily responsible, but I think it's fair to call it a contributing factor. After all, a number of recent assessments of the Liberal campaign have highlighted the fact that the Liberals' assumption that Canadians hated Harper as much as their own partisans do severely distorted their strategic judgment. In fact, Wherry recently quoted from an election postmortem by Rob Silver, himself a Liberal which made exactly this point – although Wherry revealingly choose not to quote that excerpt. No less an icon of conventional wisdom than Jeffrey Simpson has made the same point. So the suggestion that Liberals created a Harper-hater echo chamber which distorted their strategic judgment is hardly crazy – a lot of people are making the same suggestion. Well, how was that echo chamber created? I think that Twitter was part of it. And I think that Wherry's blog was part of it to. Not the main part, of course – but definitely part of it.

    • If you're looking for Harper hating, wait until he starts governing. You sensitive types might want to stay over on the Blogging Tories if you find it so upsetting.

  6. He's only discovered this now? Hugh Winsor's speech says nothing that hasn't been said repeatedly for 20 years at least, and in a lot less boring prose. His speeches read just like the opening paragraphs of his now defunct Power Game columns in the G & M. I say opening paragraphs because that's as far as I ever read them.

    Sound byte looping and gotcha journalism and hyperventilating over non-issues have replaced more substantive analysis. A girl getting kicked out of a rally is now worth 9 stories in the Globe and Mail (there were more, but I quit counting), and a full week of obsessive hand-wringing by Terry Milweski.

    The media is bending over backward trying to appeal to the Facebook generation, and not surprisingly, has concluded that this requires even more dumbing down – as though that were possible. Polls take up the rest of the time. How is this new, or even insightful? It's a process that has been going on for 30 years. (The dumbing down that is. Facebook and twitter are just the most recent manifestations of this trend.) And no, it isn't going to get any better.

  7. Jan= Holly Stick = Emily = an exercise in futility. Don't bother. Really, don't.

    • Trying to make us all cry, frat-boy?

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