Why Twitter Rocks at Making You a Better Newspaper Reader

Newspapers are dying. Ironically, it’s all over the news — but that doesn’t mean that you can’t get a healthy dose of journalism anymore. Blogging and other forms of social media have replaced the hard copy newspapers we all used to pay for, but in many cases, these new media sources teach us more about what makes for quality content. Tweets aren’t just replacing newspapers, they’re making us better at reading the news.

Twitter helps people become more picky about what articles they read, teaching readers to be more discerning about their news sources. Especially for top stories, you will likely see tweets from a variety of people covering the issue or event. As a result, you not only get the choice of which article to read (which enticing link to click on), but also learn the lesson that no two news articles are the same. After looking at enough tweets and links about the same event, you will realize that the news is full of bias. Whether that makes you choose one source that you agree with and stick to that forever, or whether it makes you check out multiple sources to get the bigger picture, is up to you.

In any case, you learn that all topics have multiple angles. Even just the combination of two subjects, like Obama and the Economy, will generate tweets with slightly different stories within the same hour. For example, check out these two posts from @washingtonpost and @politico. Just by deciding which short teaser appeals most to you, you’ll learn more about your personal news taste.

You also get used to following certain writers on Twitter and seeing comments they make outside of their articles. That way, the next time you read an opinion piece in the New York Times or the Daily Beast, you have a more comprehensive perspective on where that writer is coming from. This also means you can call them out when they contradict themselves — making you one of the more educated types who participate in newspapers’ online forums and such.

In addition, Twitter shows you just how dynamic media can be. After even a brief stint as an avid Twitter user, you will pay more attention to the photos, captions, infographics, charts, and illustrations that are included in newspapers. Your instinct might be to dismiss these elements as primitive compared to the awesome capabilities of online tools — like the NYTimes Twitter election graphic. But in fact, once you get used to looking at the links and embedded content in tweets, you’ll notice that newspapers are trying to keep up with the times; editors are trying to include interesting visual cues for readers, and as a frequent tweeter, you’ll notice their efforts.

And finally, Twitter will just plain point you to the news. I think Twitter spreads world and domestic news far more effectively than Facebook. As a result, users who already have a baseline interest in current events will find it easy to read more. The more you read, the more effective you will be at reading. Go ahead and tweet a while — see if you don’t start separating trashy articles from serious ones, fluffy pieces from well-researched ones, and prejudiced notions from objective analysis.