Is Twitter ruining politics?

Harris has a point. The political world is a very small group of people composed, primarily, of politicians, the staff who work for them and the reporters who cover them. And, like any small and largely self-contained universe — most of these people live and work in and around DC — there is an echo-chamber effect in which small things (or even no-things) are made to seem like big things. Twitter didn’t create that reality but it has super-sized it. It functions — at least for many people who cover the daily ins and outs of politics — as a sort of grown up (and public) version of the note-passing that went on in junior high school. Twitter fights are begun, won (or lost) and resolved without 99 percent of the public knowing about them. There is nothing worse than watching a Democratic and a Republican operative fight on Twitter. Nothing. (Worth noting: As of January 2014, roughly one in five of all Internet users were on Twitter, according to the Pew Research Center.) If the phrase “tempest in a teapot” didn’t already exist, someone would have created it to describe political Twitter.

And Harris is also right that Twitter has become the default news-monitoring tool for the vast majority of political reporters and staffers. I can’t even count the number of times that I have sent an email to the Fix posse with a bit of news under the subject line: “Twitter is saying this is happening.” And, in any newsroom you walk through, you will usually see two monitors at most desks; one is for the everyday business of journalism, the other has Twitter (or Hootsuite or Tweetdeck) open — an ever-updating news feed.

Harris is convinced that is a terrible thing. I am less convinced of that. In days gone by, reporters kept a watchful eye on the Associated Press wire to make sure they weren’t missing any news. (Many still do.) Twitter has simply become — for many reporters — the way they ensure they aren’t missing anything. (This of course is a fallacy; you are always missing something. But, you get the idea.)