AUGUST 14, 2009 4:00AM

Elite pundits proud of their ignorance

Rate: 27 Flag

By King Kaufman

Are you on Twitter?

The hosts on C-Span have taken to asking the guests on their various shows some form of that question, and it turns out the answers are highly illuminating. This montage of them has been floating around since last week, and it reveals the stunning -- if not exactly surprising -- ignorance and incuriosity of the Beltway media elite. (More below video)

"The ones I've seen," says syndicated columnist Mark Shields, "have been so self-indulgent, and so narcissistic, Steve, that it just kind of -- you know, 'Here I am, I'm walking now. I just had a bite of my pizza. I'm walking into makeup.' I mean, they don't seem to be particularly reflective, insightful or thoughtful, rather than just sort of 'I know you'd be interested in my minor movements.' And I find that just a little off-putting, to tell you the truth."

You recognize that comment? That's right, it's what people say before they get to know Twitter. No one who has spent more than five minutes on Twitter would say that stuff about how it's all people talking about what they had for breakfast. Shields' first phrase is telling: "The ones I've seen." So he looked at it for a minute or two -- maybe.

Or maybe he's just read about Twitter. If so, he read something written by someone who doesn't know anything about Twitter. Two degrees of incomprehension: Your Washington press corps at work!

Jon Meacham, the editor of Newsweek, which is trying to reinvent and reposition itself in this new era, is asked if he's using Twitter. "I'm not," he says. "I feel that if anyone wants to call me, I'm available."

Is that so.

I called. Meacham's phone number in the Newsweek directory is answered by a recording that says don't leave a message -- now that's what I call "available!" -- and offers his assistant's phone number instead. So it cost me another phone call to leave an after-hours message with Meacham's assistant. I didn't identify myself as a reporter. I just said my name and that I wanted to ask him about some comments he made about Twitter on C-Span. Think he'll call me back?

"I think it's a fascinating phenomenon," Meacham continues on the video, "but the people who know me certainly have to listen to me too much anyway. At least that's their view."

Charmingly self-deprecating, I suppose, but again, revealing. Meacham sees Twitter mostly as a way for people to listen to him. He's already got plenty of platforms. He edits Newsweek and writes books for major publishers and gets invited to talk on TV. He doesn't need Twitter.

The first part of his comment shows that he does get that people can communicate with him -- but heck, if it's so important, they can call. The idea that the hoi polloi would make the effort to call him, or that he'd listen to or return those calls, is absurd. Newsweek has a paper circulation of about 2 million. If one tenth of 1 percent of those readers called in a given week, that would be 2,000 calls. And that's ignoring the people who read Newsweek online.

If 2,000 people e-mailed Meacham, or direct messaged him on Twitter, he'd have a hard time reading those too, of course. But if he were really interested in participating in any kind of conversation with the people who buy his magazine and read his books, he'd be on Twitter. Or he'd at least have something more intelligent to say about it than "If anyone wants to call me, I'm available."

No. What it is is: You sit there, and Jon Meacham will tell you what's what.

Twitter's a "fascinating phenomenon," Meacham says. But evidently it's not fascinating enough for the editor of a major chronicle of American life to participate in, or even know much about.

Kind of makes you wonder, doesn't it? Why do we trust these people to analyze the news for us? That's what each of them was ostensibly doing on C-Span in the first place, pontificating on the meaning of it all. And in the case of a phenomenon that's one of the major topics in their own industry, communications, these people don't even bother to learn much of anything about it before they start spouting opinions. The hell with it. They've come this far without understanding it, right?

What other subjects do they do that with? I'm asking because the people who defend print journalism talk a lot about trust, about how you can trust newspapers because they've been around so long, and you can't trust these fly-by-night bloggers. But we're supposed to trust people who wear their ignorance like a badge of honor? Ignorance about a "fascinating phenomenon" that's right up their alley?

Maybe what we should trust is their staggering ability to remain ignorant.

Michael Shear of the Washington Post says he tweeted a little from Europe when he was traveling with President Obama, but "I must admit I'm not sure I understand why." Gail Russell Chaddock of the Christian Science Monitor says, "I have opened my own Twitter line but have yet to think of anything worth writing in it yet." Jonah Goldberg says, "I don't tweet. I've never thought that the world was suffering from a lack of outlets for me to express my opinions."

Because it's all about you. These people look at every communication medium as a place for them to express themselves, not as a place for people to communicate with each other. They'd be amazed to find out how much a person can learn from Twitter if they only had the slightest interest in learning about new things. They'd be shocked to find out that there are people who do more listening than talking, who use Twitter as their main news feed, who can't possibly get to all the great stuff linked to in that feed.

They'd be amazed if they bothered to find out about it before talking about it. Let's not hold our breath. "I just had a bite of pizza" indeed.

On and on the video goes. Rare is the comment that displays a hint that the commenter has given actual thought to the matter before speaking. Sam Donaldson, speaking generally about new media, calls it "a two-edged sword," good because so many people can now participate, bad because "there's a lot of stuff out there that I don't think they've checked out at all."

He then talks about how people might believe online Holocaust deniers, wild Kennedy assassination conspiracy theories and the like, as if those things didn't predate the Internet. But the point is, at least he's given the matter some thought. How about that Sam Donaldson!

James Wolcott at least looks a little disappointed in himself as he says, "I keep thinking that the moment I get into it, it'll be over ... I keep thinking there's going to be something after Twitter." He also mentions the legitimate fear that it could become a time suck.

The first opinion in the video comes from radio host Bill Press, who couldn't be more emphatic or proud in his declaration that he doesn't know, doesn't want to know and isn't going to find out -- exactly the attitude we want from our big-time journalists!

"I agree with Maureen Dowd," he says, "that I would rather be eaten alive by ants than Twitter."

Sounds good to me, Bill. How's Tuesday? I'll bring the ants, you invite Maureen.

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What was the poet said? "Your old road is rapidly fading, please get out of the new one if you can't lend your hand."

Someone should send these guys an MP3.

I gotta say something about contact, tho... Most guys who have a big twitter following ain't too good at responding on it. Even when they directly invite comments.
If the political debates of the future will be limited to 140 characters or less, I think this is as good a time as any to get off the merry-go-round. Just because millions of people suddenly got the opportunity to tweet, that doesn't mean they have more interesting stuff to say. You're just encouraging more useless chatter.

Thankfully, these people don't waste their time on Twitter. I'm firmly with the dinosaurs here. We may be a dying breed, but sometimes it's better to fade away with dignity than to lower your standards below floor level. If you don't even have the patience to produce a short blogpost on your views, you can tweet off, as far as I'm concerned...
huh, I've been avoiding twitter like the plague, but you've convinced me to go take another look. I obviously did not read deep enough.
It's all about whom you choose to follow.

Oh, those crazy internets! I don't go near them. It's all porn, isn't it?
"If the political debates of the future will be limited to 140 characters or less, I think this is as good a time as any to get off the merry-go-round."

Translation: After reading an entire article describing how clueless media elites are about twitter, I'd like to confirm that other people are as well.
I tend to agree with Donaldson to some level, it does open the conversation to more players but at the same time Twitter or some other social media outlet is not the same as reporting. Take the Iran elections as an example, it proved valuable as a resource into the country once the government closed down the media but at the same time it pushed a lot of unsubstantiated reports and propaganda, from both sides. The journalists role today, vis-a-vis Twitter would be to take that mass of data floating around in the cloud and offer analysis and fact checking on it to build a story that gives the users/reader a clear picture of what is going on. I've harped this before but Andrew Sullivan and Nico Pitney offer at Huff Post clearly got how to use the new media tool.
I appreciate it. I think there is a combination of inanity and concise reporting (that is, an accounting of what is going on) on Twitter that makes it tough to wade through. But reading this (which has been very helpful, btw as it's made me look at my own Twitter bias) makes me understand more clearly than ever that it's not the medium, it's the user. Thoughtful people who have something to communicate will use this technology to full advantage. Those are the people to follow and it quickly becomes evident, whether in an article, a post, an e-mail or a tweet who they are.
@King,

This is not me being arrogant, but I think we would be much more authoritative about talking about the state of media right now than these blowhards. I spent a year working on BeatBlogging.Org, doing research. Have any of these pundits done, ya know, research?

Listen, I did not like every new Web site or social network that I came across, but I at least tried them and studied them before making grand pronouncements. Clearly, social media is sweeping the world, and is incredibly popular in the U.S. If pundits refuse to at least grok that, then they don't get the current media landscape. This isn't 1975!

And yes many Twitter feeds are self indulgent and narcissistic. Guess who runs most of these accounts? Media personalities. They care more about their personalities and their views than interacting with people. I find it so fascinating how many popular journalists and media pundits on Twitter follow almost no one. Even the ones on Twitter just few it as another way to talk about themselves.

Ashton Kutcher groks social media and engagement better than most media pundits. That says something. Now, who is narcissistic?
What Norwonk said--amen and amen ad infinitum. I'm a dinosaur too, and damn proud of it.

If the communication wave of the future is surface level, micro-sound-byte non-reflection, count me out.
I enjoy your posts very much and agree with what 1WomansVu wrote. Also, it is just another tool in the toolbox albeit one that should be considered, esp. by pundits/journos, if only for the sheer number of people who are using it. I find it close minded that many pundits dismiss it so easily.
Great comment by Patrick. I had never thought of what you and he are saying, the media folks are just not listening! and they don't want to listen
Um, Norwonk, Brit - y'all do know Twitter supports links? 140 characters is plenty to say "check out what I just read", give a link, and give a pithy comment on same.
I like to equate New Media with PowerPoint or Final Draft screenwriting software. They're TOOLS, and depending on who is using them and how they use them, they're either a fancy waste of time or something that can really help you communicate your ideas and express yourself. Twitter and social media are the same way. Old fogies can stick to manual typewriters if they'd like and if it gets the job done for them. But don't blame the medium if you don't like the message.
You have a weird tone, here Kaufman.

For one thing: isn't it worth mentioning that Twitter is fundamentally just a short-form blogging site with a mass audience? As a long-time blogger and sometime Twitterer (and as a person in her twenties who's not remotely scared of "new" technologies like Kaufman seems to think the older folks are), I have to say that it's just as weird to read starry-eyed praise of Twitter as it is to read knee-jerk reactions against it.

Let's get past the hype. It's just a medium, people, and "media" is plural for a reason: people can get their point across on any platform they choose. I repeat: it's a medium. It's not likely either to destroy the world or save it. Not liking Twitter doesn't make you backwards or stupid--and liking it sure doesn't make you cutting edge or "in the know" and hasn't for a good long while.
Most disturbing to me is that the responses here from #oldmedia generally reflect ignorance, and an unwillingness to become familiar. There are plenty of journalists on Twitter using it well and wisely who know better. But don't get me started. . .
I just signed up for Twitter. I chose to follow King. We'll see if he has something interesting to say.
You're right that many of the people in the established media are self-important blowhards, though we didn't really need c-span or the Twitter meme to understand that - their work product is sufficiently telling.

I was pretty impressed with Donaldson's response, to tell the truth and figure he's a rarity in the profession. On the other hand, there are plenty of young journalists who don't seem to get it either, and get pretty comfortable in the blowhard role pretty quickly.

I tend to follow a number of lights in the technology press, for example, and the self-indulgent tweets in my feed are surprisingly common.

As with many things in life, the Twitter experience is highly correlated to the quality of the people you follow and the quality of those who follow you. All in all, I've found it to be an intermittently engaging communication platform.

Your mileage may vary.
As a tech worker I have to laugh at all this twitter nonsense. Watching the media, they think using Twitter makes them out to be cutting-edge/hip/in-touch/etc. It is not anything that special...seems the media makes it a revolution than just a broadcast pager service. You can broadcast by dozens of other means, not just Twitter (Usenet anyone?).

Yeah media guys are in touch if they use Twitter and the media elites 'don't get it''. Two words Rick Sanchez. The guy was going nuts the past few times they went down. Maybe he should check out Slashdot and do a story about Twitter. There's a report that it's being used as a botnet control mechanism. Would you call that a "Twit-net" or a "Twat-net"?
Adaptation. It had better be a lifetime occupation or Progress will leave you so far behind you aren't in the game anymore. Futile to resist, Twitter's impact is everywhere already as wireless communications bring the US into the world Seoul-ites have lived in for a decade already, media is giving way to real-time communication on a global level- eyewitness all-the-time.

Embrace Change.
@King

You can respect Donaldson but good Lord not the wig...let it shine Sam, let it shine!... : D

Enjoy the weekend...
I can definitely see how it might be useful for sharing hyperlinks, distributing short periodic status reports, etc. But 140 characters is too short to say anything more than an introductory sentence.

We don't need micro-blogging, we need macro-blogging. America's attention span is too short already. You can bookmark someone's blog and comment on any blog site. The only thing twitter has going for it is it's popularity. You can find anyone of importance (almost) in the same place. Personally, I'd rather just use Google and get to a meatier discussion of their chosen topics.
@King,

You're right on. I got your drift. What point is there in having media pundits who don't get media or current mass communications? That seems incredibly backwards.

But the real point here is this: how intellectually shallow is it for "journalists" and pundits to dismiss something they haven't A) tried or B) properly researched? That's not journalism.

These are supposed to be the cream of the crop. They get paid big bucks, but apparently you just need to have an opinion, not a mind to be a media pundit these days.
King, the point is well taken, to a point.

You do not have to know everything about everything to be an effective journalist. In fact, there are a great many journalists who specialize in one "beat" or another and that is perfectly acceptable.

And as ubiquitous as many of us educated urban coastal dwellers with computers and cell phones and 3G networks would like to believe Twitter is, it is not nearly as comprehensive a tool for understanding the world as you make it out to be. Not yet, anyway. It probably will be not too long from now. But for now, it is an interesting new tool that people are still figuring out how to use effectively.

Sam Donaldson has no more obligation to educate himself about Twitter than he does to educate himself about the Westminster Dog Show or ComiCon, other than to have a vague idea about what it is and where he could go to find out more about it should an actual story on it become necessary for him.

I use Twitter. I use Facebook. I am by no means suggesting that these tools are not relevant or useful. They are. I am not suggesting that they aren't having an impact on our culture. They are. But right now, they primarily impact a segment of our culture. Do not make the mistake of believing that just because all of your friends are on Twitter that that means the entire world is on Twitter and that people who don't know what Twitter is or how important it is are somehow deficient. Twitter has a long way to go before it conquers the world, and its destiny is by no means guaranteed.

After all, people thought BetaMax was all that once.
Actually, to be a valid “pundit” these days requires little more than the ability to garner ratings. And ratings on any media outlet are important so media companies can sell ads. The higher the ratings, dowloads, opens, clicks...you know the rest.

These people are journalists who have covered a lot of stories. They have cultivated a lot of sources. They have “time in” and can speak with some authority when they make commentary or analytical statements. I certainly wouldn’t classify them as mere “pundits.” I'll wager most of their "information" comes to them thru f2f conversation.

“What point is there in having media pundits who don't get media or current mass communications?”

That’s a rather odd question? What does punditry have to do with the mechanics of getting your punditry out there? You might as well ask, “How can you call yourself a ‘driver’ if you don’t know how an internal combustion engine’s torque is configured?” Does not knowing that make you an incompetent driver? Should you be dismissed as “backwards” or mindless because you may not know or worse, don’t care to find out?

I don’t think so. What these journalists might want to do is what many tweeting entities do: hire someone to tweet your shit so you look like you’re engaged and with it on twitter. Bob Shieffer was good. "We're on Twitter." There are a couple of sites soliciting for paid tweeters now.

I have noticed that Tweeters seem to get very sensitive about all this.
I thought Twitter was going to be the magic cure for my inability to stay up-to-date with my brother after many years of living far away from "home." Alas, he talked me into signing up, tricked me into posting the mundane details of my life (I actually tweeted, "Recovering from another gall bladder attack"!!!) and then he was completely mute. Twitter, my ass. I called him yesterday (to report the results of my gall bladder-ectomy) and he didn't even mention Twitter. I think he doesn't even want to know about my gall bladder. And, worse than that, he doesn't want me to know what an interesting life he is leading. My own brother!
Sorry about the off-topic rant, there, King. Your criticisms is spot-on. What really gets my goat is when blow-hards like Helen what's-her-head act like the old model was so good that it guaranteed that we got great coverage of all the important issues. You know, like in the run up to the invasion of Iraq? Why would we possibly need new models for information flow?
I love Twitter. I have all of the possible news I'm interested in feed through it, then I can skim the headlines and pick what I want to read. That includes Open Salon too. When I'm stuck in line, etc it's a great way to make use of my time. And maybe I'm a celebrity whore, I'm not going to deny the possibility, but I actually find some postings amusing and some thought provoking..... So yeah, Twitter is fun and actually informational.... and hey, remember guys, not everything in the world has to serve a purpose!
Some say, Elvis was the King.

I say Ali was/is the King.

With this blog post, YOU join my pantheon of heroes.




rtd
All I can add, king, is spot on, not only in the article, but in your comments. I'd like to repeat, for emphasis, two excellent points made in this comment thread:
1) (from Lonnie Lazar) "As with many things in life, the Twitter experience is highly correlated to the quality of the people you follow and the quality of those who follow you." (Yes. Word. Amen. Thanks for saying it, Lonnie.)
and
2) (from you) Because it's new, they've read one or two things about it, formed their opinion, and that's it. They're done. It is intellectually bankrupt, professionally irresponsible. (Yes. Word. Amen. And thanks for saying it.)

You're exactly correct, and you did write it right--this article wasn't about Twitter, it was about pundits. . .pundits who think if they sign up for Twitter it's about what they're saying, not what they're reading, who see it only as a one-way device and not a feed for important information to come to them, who don't consider they could monitor BBC and NY Times and NTARC and NASA and the State Dept and worldwide news gathering organizations all in one place to inform themselves. No.

They think it's only about tweeting their oatmeal.
I concur with much of Liz wrote. I don't think too many people are seriously questioning the need to be tuned into all the latest forms of media, although many are a lot less valuable than they claim to be and will doubtless fade away and be replaced by something else forthwith. And there's no denying that the business of journalism is rapidly changing, but that's been true ever since I got into it about 30 years ago. It's always been dying, I can't remember a time when it wasn't.

I object to the entire tone of this Future of Journalism blog, and have found it off putting from the beginning. It carries a strong stench of condescension and disdain, not just for "old school" journalists who don't immediately embrace everything the Salon pundits who write it advocate, but also for anyone who offers up a dissenting opinion. It seems that readers are here to not to discuss new ideas, learn or disseminate; we are here to be lectured, and when necessary, talked down to. That makes me sad.
Enjoyed the article and the comment stream very much. I mostly agree about the blowhard-nature of the media elite. I never was all that fond of them.

That said, I have one question about one of those old-fashioned journalism things: verification. With more and more news being reported online, especially via Twitter, how do we know what's true and what isn't? To some extent it's about the quantity of given reports, but there's still no substitute for attributing a claim to a person you've talked to--that is, somebody who is more than an electronic voice. In journalism classes I teach, verification and attribution are the concepts--and I do mean conceptually--that students really struggle with now.

Full disclosure: I'm not on Twitter yet. I will be soon.
Ah yes...verification and attribution. If your mother says she loves you, check it out.
Verification and attribution on Twitter are just like they are anywhere else. If you're following The Guardian, The Wall Street Journal, or The New York Times, and retweet a link to one of their stories, it's the same as handing a newspaper article to someone. If you're following a teenage girl from Tulsa, you might be spreading gossip.

@jaketapper might tweet that Bill Clinton has just boarded a plane for North Korea to help bring home the US journalists, and people can weigh that source and consider whether or not it's credible. A number of media outlets in fact did, running with a single tweet from a single source.
As a certified member of the "old folks brigade" I'll just say (in agreement with King) that criticizing something you haven't used and/or taking a condescending tone is akin to coming out against the movie you haven't seen because you think or hear or "understand" it to contain thematic material you might not like.

Again, Twitter is a tool - how it's used Depends on the user. The point about the links is well-taken. If you can make a timely announcement and send people elsewhere for follow-up via a link, a tweet potentially has great value.
@ emma peel

Thank you, thank you, thank you. You have summed up this post to a "T" I myself could never be as succinct and I thank you for it. The powers that be at this "Salon" should consider well these thoughts as the days of this site are numbered if they don't.
It's great that Twitter provides a new, bidirectional communication path between celebrities and their fans. But how many celebrities actually respond to their fans? And how many are using "ghost twitterers" to tweet their followers? For my (humorous) take on the subject, see:

http://open.salon.com/blog/robert_brenner/2009/08/15/
what_if_hitler_had_twitter
Good post, better explanations (though it definitely was all in the original post), great discussion.

But twitter would be a huge time sink and I'm going to reserve my right as an old person to ignore it, at least for now.

Now I'm just going to go see if I can't get my old betamax working again. Speaking of time sinks.
In this rapidly accelerated culture, Twitter isn't "new." I've had an account since 2006, and quite frankly the novelty wore off ages ago.
huh. and here i thought it was so common-place, there wasn't a journo left who hasn't uttered "the word on the Tweet is..." at least once a week in reference to an emerging story. it's one of the most useful social media tools to come along and i can't even count how many leads i've picked up. it's not just for media -- any business not twittering is missing out on free promotion, as well as a fast exchange of news and ideas.
Speaking of promotion, I dropped my own Twitter sucker punch here:

http://open.salon.com/blog/coryfrye/2009/08/09/from_twitter_to_shitter
I'm going to defend these patriarchs of old media. Twitter is a fun tool for promotion, and as we've seen in Iran, its 'real time' delivery can help transmit info instanteoulsy. But in every case in the clip montage the media person represents a news agency bigger than him or her self. 140 characters is not enough space to transmit the complexities that are the result of real journalism and reporting. I don't want to hear from any of these folks individually, and it unnerves me frankly when I see AnnaMarieCox and JakeTapper twittering anything other than links to their work. Let their agencies broadcast links to that work on Twitter for the rest of us to enjoy.
Not to TALK DOWN to anyone but given the exceptional importance of Tweeting to those with a pulse (Paula Abdul recently used a Tweet to make millions- I'm sure an activist cause has received, due to one Tweet, significant help as a result).

Given the power of a great Twit, I suggest prospective Tweeters would all do well to re-read Hemingway and concentrate on the telegram texts. Learn from short form masters before you make your "permanent" record shine with credulity.

Embrace Change. (way to go Paula!)
I don't understand the texting phenomenon nor do I understand Tweeting. Senators Tweeting during hearings or other important stuff? No thanks. Pay freaking attention instead of Tweeting.

Look, I am not advocating a return to typewriters and ribbons. Laptops make a lot of sense. But I would rather folks pay attention to what is going on around them rather than trying to message on tiny little keys that divert their attention.
King, I think you may be overvaluing the medium over the content.

Major old-school media folks like Meacham and Donaldson and Press have been drilled in the notion that getting the story right, getting it in depth, understanding all the angles, and getting it from a primary source as opposed to a secondary one is better than getting it fast. They built their reputations on creating substantive content.

The principle feature of the Twitter tool over other potential distribution tools is that it can get material out fast. New media is obsessed with speed, and no doubt there is a premium in the journalism world placed on being first and "breaking" a story. But being first and wrong is of no use to anyone, and as Donaldson very aptly pointed out, Twitter offers vast quantities of unverified information.

And while yes, an NPR tweet will invariably provide a link to an NPR story that IS verified, the fact remains that the tweet itself is a tertiary source for information at best. You cannot tweet a story that hasn't been written, or footage that hasn't been shot, or a photo that hasn't been taken. Twitter qua Twitter doesn't offer much in the way of journalism, especially not at 140 characters or less. It offers a way to promote the work of journalists, a distribution platform.

With the exception of the recent election protests in Iran, the content of Twitter hasn't done much more than distribute a vast cacophany of diverse information to the roughly 3.7 million estimated users (at most) who have accounts on Twitter. While certainly lots of elected officials do use Twitter, most of them view it as a one-way train, a promotional tool. Most of their tweets are about what committee meeting they are attending or what bill they are currently sponsoring -- information that is great for the electorate to be informed on but hardly actual news to someone who works the washington beat and knows how to call a congressperson's office and find out those things.

The only times that the tweets themselves are news is when someone misuses their 140 characters and ends up tweeting something that gets taken the wrong way -- the kind of "gotcha journalism" that guys like Bill Press and Sam Donaldson usually try to stay away from.

As for the potential for Twitter to be a tool for conversation between the tweeters and the tweeted, personally my experience is that it is not an optimal tool for dialogue. Sure, I can read the tweets @me, but when you have a million followers (like "Meet the Press" host David Gregory), how much of a conversation can you really have? To try and read all the tweets using the hashtag #healthcare from even the last hour doesn't really tell me anything that I wouldn't already know if I went to the CNN website, unless, of course, what "ada85" and "GloriouslyDark" are currently saying about the topic is somehow more relevant than what policymakers are saying. (who, BTW, do little but cite to other websites) My guess is we will see a tool come along that does the dialogue thing better than Twitter.

Twitter has its uses. As a news consumer, Twitter can turn me on to stories and content quickly. If I am a news outlet, Twitter provides an additional platform to promote the content I create. For venerable journalists who have reputations for substantive reporting to concern themselves more with the content they create than its distribution outlets is probably a good thing, particularly when that distribution outlet has a user base that is actually roughly half of the viewership of an evening newscast.

Twitter is at this point interesting, with a great deal of potential, but not important enough at this point that it should be considered journalistic malpractice to not be a devotee of the medium.
No, they're proud of their ability to discriminate between worthwhile and not, which you ascribe totally to their ignorance. Your assumption that anyone who gets through the first N minutes with Twitter will believe it worth part of her finite life-time reminds me of the devout Muslim cab-driver who was amazed that I could know a great deal about Islam yet not believe in any of it.

Rational thought is encouraged by text (as opposed to image), by freedom to create (as opposed to very narrow bandwidth) and the use of good grammar in complete sentences (as opposed to a Bush or Palin utterance). Rationality is more equitable than other modes because other modes' productions end up being judged generally on volume and vehemence, both of which are eminently purchasable (see: the Town Hollerers).

This is not to say that there is no worthy content on Twitter, but that the form discourages it, and it is credible to judge the worthy/unworthy ratio to be unfavourable.

Yes, this is élitist---but not as in 'mædia élite', merely the élite constituted of those able and willing to think, who can come from anywhere in society (see: http://mnftiu.cc/blog/images/war.238.gif). I am social democrat because I don't want to close off society to the benefits of the élite who can arise from anywhere, as long as we don't feed the entire population an intellectual and cultural (and gustatory) diet that will guaranty that few will get there.
King, I see the point you're trying to make, but if the medium isn't yet that important beyond the few million who use it, then how much investigation should Sam Donaldson have to make? At the end of the day, the criticism he offers is a pretty valid one. Meacham's point, that a phone probably offers a better chance at true dialogue, is also not entirely off the mark.

Your argument that these people owe Twitter a certain level of attention is based on the presumption that Twitter is SO important, SO critical to 21st century journalism, that to fail to offer anything less than a fully researched opinion on it is a kind of professional malfeasance. My point is that Twitter is nowhere near that important, and in fact the supposedly "uninformed" opinions in some instances offer valid criticisms and highlight acknowledged limitations of the medium.

And asking someone whether they personally use Twitter is different from asking them for their journalistic insight on Twitter. The former requires only their personal insight, at whatever level of development it may be, a recounting of their personal experience, however extensive it may be. The latter might indeed merit a higher level of investigation. But the latter question was not the question that was asked.

Sure, older generations in any industry are often slow to adopt new technology when it appears. And if that technology was indeed a watershed tool, I'd agree with you. But it's not.
What sort of arrogance and insular naivety creates an attitude that decides that when another person doesn't like or appreciate something - that they don't "get" it?

I get it, I am familiar with it, I use it (I have to) and I think that it is puerile.
King,

It's a dicey thing to assume that because someone says something that you think is obviously stupid about something, that that automatically means they know nothing about it, or have not investigated it.

Twitter is not a phone. I don't think Meacham thinks Twitter is a phone. What he said is that he has a phone for when people want to contact him, and that Twitter isn't really a tool for conversation. And while you may think that opinion is demonstrably stupid, the fact of the matter is that it IS indeed, to some extent, true. Twitter is great at throwing information AT people, not so good at dialogue. So the opinion you think blatantly uninformed and therefore de facto stupid actually has some merit. It's a conclusion one could easily come to having used the medium daily for a month.

Saying Twitter is just a bunch of people talking about having pizza is probably only half true. I'd say that twitter feeds are becoming less and less like this, but certainly in the earlier days of Twitter this was FAR more prevalent, and still is among many of the most followed celeb tweeters. I know who Niel Gaiman has had dinner with every night this week because of Twitter. And as I discussed earlier, this kind of information is really the only primary source material on Twitter. All those links to other websites and news stories are not primary source material, they are secondary and even tertiary source material. It's therefore not an entirely unintelligent assessment of Twitter to dismiss it as having something of a dearth of primary source material other than tweets about who one is having dinner with.

Because you've equated the content of the comment to being evidence of how much they actually know about Twitter, you've created a situation where the only way these guys can prove to you that they know anything about Twitter is if they say something about it that you find intelligent. Like it or not, we tend to find things people say more intelligent the more we are in agreement with them. Old or new media, that's a level of subjectivity inherent in your argument that you might want to reconsider.
Also, I'd love to hear why (if) you think that Twitter is that significant. Because although you admit you'd be satisfied with an assessment of Twitter that labeled it insignificant, I do think that to some extent the thing that is buried underneath your outrage is the fact that you believe that Twitter is somehow significant enough to demand everyone's attention. I'm curious because you haven't really delved into that.
Ramesh, for the love of Ganesha, lay off the hashish.
My mother said she loves me. I checked it out. Results were tweeted. #truestory
King:

Love your blog, but don't you think you are being a bit hard on these people?

The truth is that Twitter is a good medium to relay some information and not so good for other sorts of information. Why do we need to get so defensive about it if someone chooses not to use it?

I do think journalists who don't find it useful shouldn't talk down on it, and maybe that's the issue you have? At any rate, you do have to weigh how much time you spend doing different tasks. Some might prefer writing a 500 word blog post and find that meets their ends more than someone posting a 35-word blurb on Twitter (although I would say Twitter would be a nice medium to post a link to your blog post to generate traffic).

At any rate, you get the point. I think Twitter might be more useful for some journalists than others, depending on your audience and what you are trying to do. It sounds to me like some of these people tried Twitter, saw it really wasn't for them and moved on. Should they have given it a longer shot? Maybe ... but I think it's wrong to suggest that all of us need to run out and get a Twitter account or else the sky will start falling.