Study: Twitter Has Made Journalists Rude

Apparently journalists used to be very polite and respectful toward politicians and celebrities. And now, apparently thanks to Twitter, they feel free to be short and rude:

The study from the University of Texas looked at 5,700 tweets from the first 2012 presidential debate. It found a wave of insults and snarky comments from reporters.

. . .

But it concludes that Twitter journalism has helped give the nation a better perspective on politics, snark and all, as reporters reveal their criticism of candidates that is typically kept out of their news stories.

So it is the personal nature and short format of Twitter that has most contributed to the uptake of snark in political journalism. Has this resulted in a reduction of professionalism? Possibly. But one thing the study doesn’t seem to mention is how the changing political climate has determined what media avenues are most popular.

What if Twitter is becoming a more popular format for political commentary because politics is becoming more and more ridiculous and contemptible? What if Twitter journalism is just a reaction to a transformation of politics?

The relationship of technology to politics has been a topic of conversation since the advent of the printing press, and probably before. And just as Twitter is both reacting to and furthing transforming the rules of political engagement, television did the same decades ago. One of the classic examples of this was the 1960 television debate between JFK and Richard Nixon. The Chicago Tribune reminisced about it:

For the record, the Tribune wasn’t impressed with either candidate, calling Kennedy and Nixon “two well meaning and well mannered young men,” and hoping that in future encounters, “they will show that they are made of sterner stuff than pie crust.”

That sounds a bit like snark doesn’t it? Things have only degenerated since then. I don’t think anyone would deny that politicians have become even less respectable in our day. Maybe there would be less snark if candidates were “made of sterner stuff than pie crust”? Nah. Probably not.