Twitter Has Been Incredibly Important For State and Local Journalists Like Me
If the Bird App dies, state and local journalists will lose a vital tool.
I almost turned my back on my calling as a journalist. I wanted to do important, meaningful work in Mississippi, but I had almost given up hope that I could do the kind of journalism I believed in here.
Then, I met Jackson Free Press editor Donna Ladd (now editor of the Mississippi Free Press) in 2018. With a push from my husband, William Pittman, I took a position at JFP where I suddenly had the opportunity to do the kind of journalism I believed in.
What I didn’t anticipate was how many people around the country—nay, the world—would grow to care about the work I was doing in Mississippi. Within months of joining JFP, my Twitter following began to boom.
When I reported on Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith’s history at a segregation academy in November 2018, it sparked a national flurry of follow ups and discussions about the often hush-hush history of segregation academies throughout the country. My reporting on that election spread like wildfire on Twitter and suddenly I was getting invitations to appear on major cable news shows like MSNBC’s All In With Chris Hayes. The segregation academy story was featured in a monologue on The Rachel Maddow Show.
In the years since, Twitter has helped connect me and my colleagues with thousands of people I would’ve never met otherwise. After Donna Ladd and Kimberly Griffin co-founded the Mississippi Free Press as a nonprofit newsroom in 2020, we hit the ground running with huge stories on COVID-19 and Twitter became one of the biggest sources of views and donations for our fledgling publication.
One of the most gratifying things we have repeatedly heard from followers (including ones who have never even stepped foot in Mississippi) is that they have grown to care about what happens in Mississippi because of our journalism.
The Bird App has done a lot to make news more accessible to the public—and to help elevate independent local and state journalism to the national level. I can’t overstate how momentous that has been.
But aside from what Twitter has done for journalism, I’ve also just met wonderful, generous people—like a wonderful follower in Jackson who kindly gave me an old filing cabinet of hers after I outgrew my old one. As infuriating as Twitter has been at times, I’ve met so many amazing people and learned so much from those across all walks of life. And it really has helped grow independent, democracy-building journalism.
With Elon Musk seemingly on the verge of destroying Twitter, I don’t know what happens next or if the Bird App will survive. But I do know that I don’t want to lose touch with the incredible people I’ve gotten to know there.
I’m going to use this Substack to continue doing what I’ve been doing on Twitter for years: Sharing Mississippi news in a way that is relevant to a national audience (complete with links!), offering my Mississippi insights, and even occasionally sharing photos of our pit bulls (Dorothy and Dru)
Whatever happens next, let’s stay together.
P.S. — I hope you’ll consider donating to the Mississippi Free Press to help grow our nonprofit newsroom. If you’d like to, you can do that at mfp.ms/donate.
P.S.S. — Here are all my social media profiles where you can follow me going forward:
I'm expecting Twitter will recover, and also we will actively start to reverse the reliance on Twitter.
This will make major media rebroadcasters like MSNBC have to work harder to get good news.
No. Twitter made you a tool.