The Mountain Xpress, Asheville, N.C.‘s, alternative newsweekly, took a remarkable step on Wednesday, ending its 14-year run as a print publication (today’s issue is our last), suspending its regular online news reports and converting its entire news operation to Twitter dispatches from staff and trusted community journalists.
Here at Mountain Xpress, we find ourselves facing unprecedented change. Like many of you, we’re battling a contracting economy that’s forcing us to work smarter, faster, smaller. Meanwhile, digital tools offering new ways of engaging readers seem to land in our inboxes daily. And the astonishing growth and spread of mobile users and social networking capabilities is delivering new news faster than we can even begin to figure out what the old news was.
In other words, news outlets no longer control the flow of information. Quite simply, the tools have left the building.
But that doesn’t mean we’re throwing in the virtual towel. We at Xpress feel strongly that there’s still an important role for journalists in this society. And as a truth-seeking filter, an ever-vigilant watchdog and a community meeting place for diverse thoughts and ideas, we wholeheartedly believe that the newspaper will continue to play a crucial role in our democracy, even if it no longer offers either “news” or “paper” in the conventional sense.
Things are changing, and Xpress has decided not only to embrace that change but to charge ahead in a manner befitting the creativity and edge that make Asheville the continually shifting center point it undoubtedly is.
Accordingly, we here unveil the new Mountain Xpress: the nation’s first Twaper (Twitter-powered newspaper). After much thought and internal debate, we have decided to vault the obstacles of conflict and debate in a single, electric leap of faith. From now on, Xpress will be all Twitter, all the time, exclusively featuring the microblogging bursts of the diverse and emphatic folks who collectively make up this community.
As we surf the tsunami of the unfolding media revolution, it’s become increasingly clear to us that the 140-character-long “tweets” provided by you and your neighbors are the most apt approximation to date of the lightning-fast and cracklingly condensed neuronal flashes that are the root of all thought and, thus, all true community exchange. You’ll soon come to see that by adding tags to your tweets, such as “txmx” for technical matters or “mxup” for underpublicized information, you’ll be able to fine-tune and direct your contributions to the overall “Twitter-twatter.”
Admittedly, some of you may feel some nostalgia for the “print edition,” which comes in so handy when your phone needs charging or you can’t find a wi-fi zone (or when nature calls). But just think of all the trees we’ll be saving together—not to mention all the time we’ll all save.
Face it: In today’s fast-paced, multitasking, pause-and-you’ve-fallen-behind world, most of us simply don’t have the time to read long, rambling, 2,000-word print pieces. And by the time you’ve half finished figuring out what you think about homelessness in Asheville, say, that story’s already become functionally obsolete.
In that same amount of time, we could be tweeting and aggregating our way to a whole new vision of community and even, perhaps, of dialogue itself. And thanks to Twitter’s technologically enforced brevity, it will almost be a “conversation without words.”
Welcome to the brave new world of pure, community-driven journalism. The Mountain Xpress, as we knew it, is dead. Long live the nation’s first Twaper!
Jeff Fobes, publisher