Anatomy of a local Twitter argument resolved: Politics & peace in a small town

Early this morning, local Twitterer WNCGOP began his day with a terse politically and sociologically charged one-liner:
WNCGOP: Good morning everyone. It’s raining here in Asheville, NC (which is a good thing, because it keeps down the stink of those damned hippies) 5 am approx

A few hours ensued before a response emerged:
itswendylou:: More political genius from wnc gophers, http://tinyurl.com/c2pmh8 —their PR folks are brilliant 10 am approx

Shortly thereafter:
WNCGOP: Suggested to my Starbucks barista that they consider renaming my tall skinny black & white mocha the “Obama.” He said he’d pass it along. 10:10 am approx

Both tweets evoked a flurry of reactions over the course of about an hour:
loknessmobster: @itswendylou: wow, these people are real dumbasses. I mean i am sure they get publicity, we are giving it to them but they just look stupid. 10:20 am approx
loknessmobster: @itswendylou: at least at this rate we can guarantee that they won’t win anything as long as they keep it up. 10:30 am approx
itswendylou: @loknessmobster: i know many “hippies” who aren’t dems, but libertarians, + often agree w/ the fiscal side of the gop-wonderful outreach fail 11:10 am approx
loknessmobster: @itswendylou: agree, rep seem to always forget about the libertarians and write them off as anarchists, not realizing there are moderate ones 11:15 am approx

At which point, came the first peace sign, when WNCGOP retweeted an earlier mountainxpress news item:
WNCGOP: RT @mountainxpress: The Habitat Home Store will host a one-day food drive for MANNA FoodBank on Saturday, April 4 from 10am-4pm. #mxnow 11:20 am approx

Liberal grumbling continued:
donmak: @itswendylou: re:hippies & fiscal side of GOP. That’s exactly what I thought when read @WNCGOP tweet. Bad marketing fo sho 11:25 AM

Then Fobes (of Xpress) put WNCGOP’s initial opening comment on Xpress’ twitter-news feed:
fobes: RT @WNCGOP tweet:“It’s raining here in Asheville, NC (which is a good thing, because it keeps down the stink of those damned hippies) #mxnow 11:28 AM

A debate between parties ensued:
WNCGOP: @fobes: @donmak: @itswendylou: Oh, lighten up, people. You call us mouth breathers & Neanderthals. but you can’t take a little joke. Waaaa. 11:40 AM
WNCGOP: This is one of the many problems with the left. They are, by and large, humorless and overly sensitive. 11:45 AM
itswendylou: @WNCGOP I’ve called you no such thing, besides, I think your MO is pure brilliance 11:46 AM

And then WNCGOP offfered an olive branch:
WNCGOP: @itswendylou: Flattery will get you everywhere. And I apologize; I’m being overly sensitive myself, I suppose. Thanks for following ;) 11:50 AM

Fobes & WNCGOP discussed:
fobes: @WNCGOP Glad in a small community, we can be neighbors & agree on some things (Habitat 1-day food drive) 11:51 AM
WNCGOP: @fobes: Always glad to help out a good cause. Besides, I love you guys. MX is the only paper I (and most people I know) even read anymore… 11:54 AM
fobes: @WNCGOP defends its “stink of…damned hippies” quip:“Oh, lighten up…U call us mouth breathers&Neanderthals but can’t take a..joke #mxnow 12:00 noon
fobes: All is possible in human-sized community:RT@WNCGOP to @itswendylou: “..I apologize;I’m being overly sensitive myself, I suppose.. ;) ” #mxnow 12:11 PM

And everyone moved on to a topic that all could agree on: a local power outage and the human condition:
fobes: RT @asheville6: power is out along Gov’s View(Lookout, Pinehurst). driving down Fairway now. power looks out on most of Amboy as well #mxnow 12:15 PM
fobes: RT @asheville6: Progress Energy says power should be restored in affected Bev Hills areas w/i 2 hours #mxnow 12:16 PM
WNCGOP: @donmak: I wish. We’re just some unemployed, socially-retarded dorks with too much time on our hands. You know, Libertarians. Kidding! 12:17 PM
donmak: @WNCGOP Haha :-) 12:18 PM

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About Jeff Fobes
As a long-time proponent of media for social change, my early activities included coordinating the creation of a small community FM radio station to serve a poor section of St. Louis, Mo. In the 1980s I served as the editor of the "futurist" newsletter of the U.S. Association for the Club of Rome, a professional/academic group with a global focus and a mandate to act locally. During that time, I was impressed by a journalism experiment in Mississippi, in which a newspaper reporter spent a year in a small town covering how global activities impacted local events (e.g., literacy programs in Asia drove up the price of pulpwood; soybean demand in China impacted local soybean prices). Taking a cue from the Mississippi journalism experiment, I offered to help the local Green Party in western North Carolina start its own newspaper, which published under the name Green Line. Eventually the local party turned Green Line over to me, giving Asheville-area readers an independent, locally focused news source that was driven by global concerns. Over the years the monthly grew, until it morphed into the weekly Mountain Xpress in 1994. I've been its publisher since the beginning. Mountain Xpress' mission is to promote grassroots democracy (of any political persuasion) by serving the area's most active, thoughtful readers. Consider Xpress as an experiment to see if such a media operation can promote a healthy, democratic and wise community. In addition to print, today's rapidly evolving Web technosphere offers a grand opportunity to see how an interactive global information network impacts a local community when the network includes a locally focused media outlet whose aim is promote thoughtful citizen activism.

40 thoughts on “Anatomy of a local Twitter argument resolved: Politics & peace in a small town

  1. David Harper

    Two points:

    First, the fact that people like Chad Nesbitt and his ilk have taken over the local Republican party is rather sad. Small minded hate mongers ruling any political ideology is quite sad.

    Second, will someone please explain Jeff Fobes’ fascination with Twitter? It’s kind of embarrassing.

  2. John

    This new form of communication is going to demonstrate itself a problem in many respects. The Send button now has way more immediate power than ever. For many, the Send button will turn into the Self Destruct button. It will be interesting to watch.

  3. suzyq

    Like I’m totally so happy MOUNTAINX is so into twittering. I mean like news is so hard and booooring!! And twittering is fun and… It’s just fun. I mean like it’s like um – bumper stickers. Like I just voted for the first time (omigosh) and like instead if reading the news :( and listening to all those grumpy old men, I just voted for the one who had the coolest bumper stickers. Yeah! It was so much fun, it really hurt my feeling when they wouldn’t let me do it a second time.

  4. William Tyndale

    Jeff
    There’s a difference between being a visionary on the cutting edge of technology and simply being delusional. Twitter isn’t community or communication just 140 character porn.

  5. stephen

    I thought it was bad when twitter started dominating my tech news sources, and now it’s in my local news. Overall I think it’s a win for twitter (and social networking in general), but I really don’t think a thing like this makes for good news. Had this debate happened in nearly any other setting (public or private), it would not have been news worthy.

  6. Twitter has become a national phenomenon in much the same way as Facebook. Most major news orgs, major companies, sports teams, are now using Twitter to communicate. New uses of Twitter are cropping up week by week.

    Whether Twitter continues to grow or fades away in the years to come is anyones guess….but for now it’s being used, discussed and analyzed throughout the mediaworld and I’m glad that MX is both using Twitter and covering it’s implications in the field of communications.

    In the MX article being discussed:
    I think the story is the how Twitter posts reflect on Tweeters and the organizations they represent.
    Twitter is amazingly easy to use. But (no unlike other digital forms of communications) it lends itself to quick off-the cuff remarks which can have unintended consequences.

    One example:
    It’s almost impossible to tell when someone is joking as opposed to biting personal attacks.

  7. shadmarsh

    One example:
    It’s almost impossible to tell when someone is joking as opposed to biting personal attacks.

    if you’re an amateur, yes.

  8. One of the misconceptions about Twitter is that it is some superfluous fad. The reason Mountain X is read and commented about so much more that competing papers lately is Twitter’s reach. If you follow Mountain Express and prominent Asheville Twitterers in between Wednesday Mountain Express issues you can almost “watch” the news being formed for upcoming articles, connections being made, and news stories being broken.

    Twitter is the topic du jour in web circles and has exploded in reach and public perception, but it still hasn’t even begun to approach it’s ultimate potential.

    Those of you that enjoy the Mountain Express every week should be thankful Jeff is doing this. If he remains forward thinking I predict the Express will be around much longer than AC-T and other regional papers.

  9. John

    It would be interesting to follow Twitter’s marketing dollars since their roll out. Who got paid to talk about them? News shows, morning shows, etc. A bunch I bet.

  10. Don Mak writes:
    “I predict I will make AT LEAST ONE off-the-cuff remark this year that will require a formal apology. Stay tuned …. :-)

    I think I’ve made 2 such remarks already this morning…..

    And I wholeheartedly concur with your comments about MX being forward-thinking and staying ahead of the curve in comparison to some other local media.

  11. shadmarsh asks: “What other local media?”

    All of the them…

    I’m not aware of any other local/regional media making use of new journalism and media techniques to the extent that MX does.

    WLOS has begun some use of blogs, though.

  12. and I confess that I dont read all of the other local media…so there may be some others doing things similar to MX.

    Do you have some examples to share?

    For the purposes of this thread, I was thinking of “local” media as print and broadcast media in Western NC. I realize some others might include Greenville SC, Knoxville, NCand Charlotte NC in the discussion but I normally think of thme as “regional” media as opposed to “local” media.

    In any case I’d be interested in learning more about what other local (and regional) media are doing in regards to New Media.

  13. Ex-Pat

    I’m sorry to see Xpress’s endorsement of this post modern debasement of journalism. I’m not all-out against Twitter and the like, it’s just an inherent embrace of relativism with little accountability. I just can’t bring myself to like the suggestion that the journalistic playing field should be leveled such that someone’s chicken scratch byte (such as my own here), more suitable for bathroom wall discourse, stands on even ground with a well-rounded piece of investigative journalism.

    Keeping up with the Jones’ media consumption habits such as they are is not inherently “cool,” however much the addition of “hip” new technology like this might seductively appear to give a news media company a “competitive” edge.

    It is nothing less than the reduction of important information-sharing to it’s crudest instrumental value -that of repackaging (rebranding, if you will) content to pander to dangerous consumer trends in which thorough and accurate reporting is dispensed with in favor of that which can often amount to nothing more than unsubstantiated rumor-mongering, placed in careless hands.

    The end result? Form beats function. Style trumps substance.

    Anti-intellectual.

    Not good.

    PS: I’m not buying the “democratizing force” argument here. This logic is relativism at its worst. It’s sidestepping the necessary precautions and responsibilities good journalists take to ensure readers are supplied with accurate data. What would appear to be a “hands on” technological development is in fact a “hands off” posture.

  14. tatuaje

    http://www.mountainx.com/news/2007/burton_street_neighbors_consider_i_26_options_the_twitter_report/

    I think it’s a great way for journalists to receive TIPS on current or upcoming stories and events, but shouldn’t be used to REPORT said stories or events….simple as that.

    Of course these sources should still be vetted and with the recent uptick in instances of Twitter impostors, http://www.statesman.com/news/content/news/stories/local/03/24/0324apdtwitter.html, how does one go about doing this? It would be extremely easy for me to set up a Twitter account as, say, Mayor Bellamy.

    I mean, is the above “story” *cough*cough* really news? Like Skippy said, it “feels like reading notes passed between immature junior high schoolers.”

    I have to agree w/ Ex-Pat….

    Not good.

  15. zen

    I think there’s room (and possibly need) for both substantiated and well-written journalism AND shorter attention trend journalism, because not everyone is, nor wishes to be, an intellectual. Well-planned strategy to maintain news as a viable source of information and thought-stimulation should carefully consider the balance between journalism and infotainment to remain both viable. There’s only so far an all-intellectual journal can go and thus remain profitable without having to do donation issues.

    Bravo for Mx giving Twitter a try in an attempt to constantly moult to stay on our radar. And i suspect this fluidity will allow Mx to shed old information-models that don’t work just as easily as embracing new ones!

  16. John

    The media is compressing every story they do into smaller and smaller segments. Its getting harder to find a story with significant details. The ‘one liner’s’ that come across will end up being the story. Sound bite journalism is now being condensed into tweets.

  17. September Girl

    Mostly I’ve seen twitter used to report real-time news bits, traffic problems, meetings, weather issues, etc. Occasionally a story pops up that seems to have legs and it is fun to watch the interaction between citizen journalists, activists and professional journalists, a la Don Mak. For stories with more depth, there are links posted – sometimes I go two or three links deep. The idea that this is short-attention-span-theater is simply not true.
    Fobes does a good job of keeping this particular twitter conversation in perspective while highlighting the potential conflicts posed by this short-form communication tool. Some of these more insulting posts are born out of fear more than anything else. I got over mine and I’m happier and better informed for it.

  18. Justin Souther

    I’m starting to think that the most unfortunate outcome from all of this is that anything beyond 140 characters is stamped “intellectual.”

    There’s something off about that.

  19. Ken Hanke

    There’s only so far an all-intellectual journal can go and thus remain profitable without having to do donation issues.

    In the first place, I’d hardly call the Xpress “an all-intellectual journal.” And call me a curmudgeon, a reactionary or even a luddite, but from everything I’ve seen Twitter is one of the worst ideas to come along in a very long while.

  20. shadmarsh

    Twitter is fairly neutral in my book. It’s a tool. Some know how to use it, others do not (the exchange noted in the article I think is fairly insipid one and doesn’t really give light to it’s strengths, while certainly magnifying its potential weaknesses).

    Twitter works best in aggregate, and it is going to take people a while to learn how to use it effectively. and of course by the time they do the next new thing will come along making Twitter obsolete.

    It also suffers from an absolutely silly name. Hearing someone use it more than once in a sentence makes me cringe.

  21. Ashevegasjoe

    I would just like to add, if the tweeter above thinks hippies smell bad, and that somehow the rain helps, he has never smelled a wet hippie.

  22. Ex-Pat

    By complaining that Twitter is anti-intellectual is by no means a suggestion that the Xpress is or should be an exclusively intellectual publication. I was merely trying to point out that the Twitter medium itself will never be a substitute for good journalism. It’s superficial. Not substantive. Most mainstream-accessible news media has been dumbed down so much, this could be the final nail in the coffin (along with the death of the newspaper itself).

    Suxyq put it best, here, I think.

  23. Re: ” Twitter medium itself will never be a substitute for good journalism. ”

    I agree.
    But I dont think Twitter is intended to “substitue for” or replace good journalism.

    I view Twitter as a tool to stimulate community involvement with media. I view Twitter (and blog) and enabling a larger citizenry to express their views in a public setting.

    In the early days of publishing short pamphlets were often distributed on topics of interest. Many saw these pamphlets as harmful because they could be published relatively quickly and inexpensively (in comparison to books). Pamphlets were criticized because their brief length wasn’t conducive to full coverage of a topic. Access to printing presses were still a limiting factor to a degree …but with pamphlets, far more people could afford to communicate their viewpoints without having to go through the lengthy and costly process of getting a book published.

    But, pamphleteers did not destroy the book industry. Pamphlets were a different tool aimed a a different audience than books. Both co-existed.

    Is it possible that Twitter (and blogs and other social media) have something in common with the rise of pamphleterring?

    Is it possible that good journalism and full well-written articles can co-exist with tweets and blogs without being threatned?

  24. Ken Hanke

    Pamphlets were a different tool aimed a a different audience than books.”

    Twitter seems more like Jack Chick tracts than a pamphlet

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