It's sort of hard to believe after all this time, but I still regularly see people making fun of Twitter as if it's just a bunch of morons saying moron things. Okay, it is mostly that when taken as a whole.
But I see very little of that kind of thing because I generally don't follow morons. Twitter is what you make it. For me, it's a collective, real-time headline service staffed by hundreds of people involved in each of the industries and topic areas I closely follow. I rarely see anyone tweeting about the Real Housewives, about how Ron Paul will defeat the New World Order, or about (to cite the most commonly employed anti-Twitter snark) "what I had for lunch."
Still, in general, Twitter is full of garbage, and sometimes that garbage seeps into my feed. The worst is spam, but there are also flamewars (discussions of any kind are pointless on Twitter) and, most commonly, simple declarations of opinions or banal thoughts. I'm occasionally guilty of that last one, as are most people. But a good (if permeable) rule of thumb is that if there's no link, a tweet is probably not worth stopping your scroll for.
Which brings us to Rupert Murdoch. He started tweeting on New Year's Eve, and so far, in 24 tweets (which is a lot considering he's the head of a major global media conglomerate) he hasn't pasted in a single link. His feed up to now has been nothing but opinions and banal thoughts -- that is, when they aren't errors or, more often, promotions for his various media properties.
Even Murdoch's most ardent critics, after flambéing him for one horrible
act or another, will often offer the caveat that he's "a real newsman
at heart." But at least since the rise of the Internet, there hasn't
been much evidence of that. He has flubbed the Internet badly at nearly
every turn. Remember MySpace. Or take a look at the New York Post's website, which is still among the worst on the Internet, even aside
from its content and all the racists in the comments sections.
Murdoch is a "real newsman at heart" in only the worst ways -- just like
the crusty ol' newspapermen who 10 or 15 years ago (or, you know, today) pooh-poohed online
publishing even as it was pulling the economic rug out from under them.
Like them, he doesn't seem to recognize Twitter, or the Internet as a whole,
as an incredibly powerful distribution system for news.
So from Rupe we get tweets like: "Great to see Mike Bloomberg getting
some rewards for being New York's best mayor in memory!" Yes, that's
just fascinating, Mr. Murdoch. As is: "Happy 2012. May itbe
better than all experts predict. Has to be! Must change everything to
create jobs for all, especiallyyoung" [sic].
Sometimes, he's as incomprehensible as a suburban-tween Twitter addict:
"Great to see alexsalmond Briton of the year. Fellow
antiestablishmentarian's Econmist piece equal very good and bs!"
He didn't bother to link to the "Econmist piece." It's hard to know for sure, but I assume it's this one,
where the First Minister of Scotland employs a lot of platitudes to
explain why Scotland is so great (in sum: because it's not Greece or
Spain). As for "bs" -- I have no idea what that means. Do you?
that Great Britain is faltering because its citizens take too many
vacations (which he tweeted from his Caribbean vacation spot, natch).
But for me the most representative tweets are the more insipid,
pedestrian ones -- the ones that reveal the devolution of the man who
was the savviest media mogul of the 20th century. After conquering
the newspaper industry, Murdoch turned his attention to what were then
the cutting-edge technologies. He recognized the power of space
satellites long before most of his competitors did, and he put vast
piles of money into exploiting them. He ultimately took control of dozens
of what would prove to be incredibly lucrative cable channels, while also
launching what would quickly become the "fourth network" -- Fox
Television. But his sagacity stopped with the rise of the Internet. The ultimate control freak can't
get his mind around a media environment that he can't control.
And so when he takes to Twitter, we get stuff like his Monday tweet, my
personal favorite so far because it is, I think, the most revealing: "NY
cold and empty, even central park. Nice!"
Dan Mitchell has written for Fortune, the New York Times, Slate, Wired, National Public Radio, the Chicago Tribune, and many others.