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I won't wave the white flag for Elon Musk

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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 over. It seems to make it a Shangri-la for right-wing trolls and hate propaganda and misinformation and He kicks journalists from the gallery who criticize him or report him in general. But every day since he took over, at least in my feed, there are still a huge number of regular people interacting with me or commenting on news or airing their grievances or asking me questions related to my pace covering Jan. 6 and its consequences.

Every day, I’m honored to tell you, I get at least one message from a random person thanking me for doing my job the way I want.

It touches me, honestly, because I know people are busy with their own lives, and yet for some reason they take a few minutes to talk to me – and not to unload a hateful tirade but to offer some gratitude or encouragement. Each time I receive these messages, I am reminded of who I work for: you. Maybe it sounds trivial to people more cynical than me, but to be honest, people who make sarcasm and cynicism the cornerstone of their personality bore me to tears of love.

For now, I can still use Twitter as a space to practice journalism. I am, for better or for worse, a strong supporter of journalism as a public service. I’m downright fanatical about this and it’s on the hill that I’ll die. It wasn’t controversial when I worked in my first newsroom, but it seems over the last 10 or so years it’s become an increasingly quaint concept or at least one that has sparked the derision of jade by many people I meet inside and outside the news industry.

I think the public owed this service to journalism and I think it’s the responsibility of journalists to help people understand power structures so they can challenge them 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 journalist and person I want to be throughout my career.

I learn by watching those I respect, I learn by watching those I don’t respect. Some of this happens offline. Part of this is happening 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 kind of journalist who runs away from a platform that increasingly seems to need the services that I can provide there. Right now, I don’t want to be a journalist running away from a billionaire with a megaphone. Twitter isn’t all about Elon Musk, although you wouldn’t be totally wrong to think so. Twitter is always about the people who use it. And while many of these users are raging racist morons, many are not.

I won’t dump my real estate on Twitter just yet because I use it to share my articles. I use it to share articles from other journalists, academics, or analysts that I want to see amplified so people can read their work and be better informed or ask better questions.

Twitter can be a window into places or times in the world that might otherwise not be seen. This social media platform can be a force for good. It can be a force for evil. And as long as I see good out there on this platform, or people are looking for it, I won’t give it up altogether.

I’ve built a modest, organic following of around 40,000 on Twitter since 2017. I haven’t bought any followers. I have just published and methodically used the platform to extend the reach of my work and the reach of others’ work. And if I’m being totally honest, I think one of the biggest reasons people follow me on Twitter isn’t because of my direct reporting. I think most of my followers hang around because they really like my live tweets or live coverage of events they might not otherwise have witnessed if a live stream or TV show doesn’t was not available.

People have told me over the years that they liked my live tweets because it gave them the nuance they so badly craved but, in their words, they felt it lacked a 20 or 30 second clip on cable news.

They like my live tweet threads to be long (often very long) and often very detailed. These are features that journalists are often asked for by their writers or editors in the typical format.

Now I don’t hit any editor. Many have saved me from myself and their cuts are often perfectly justified and indeed editors make you better as a writer.

But long-form journalism has enjoyed a resurgence in popularity in recent years for a reason. The Clickbait as King era may reign supreme, but there’s a constant thirst for information that goes beyond the title, beyond the outrage, beyond the neatly packaged clips and chyrons.

I love Twitter because I can be concise or prolific in the same thread. I know Twitter has its problems and I know them too. I don’t like it for the same reasons most people don’t: it can be a den of hate. But so is every other social media platform I’ve ever been on.

There may come a time when Twitter is truly and utterly unusable for anyone but far-right fundamentalists and their armies of goons because Musk or his cronies kicked everyone out.

But that time has not yet arrived.

I am branching out on social media platforms and have been on Mastodon since Halloween. I like it even if it is not transparent. I’m on post. I’m willing to try anything that engages people or constructively informs them about the world they live in.

So, I’m not going to censor myself on Twitter. Not yet. I think that is precisely what Musk expects from journalists. 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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