Recognizing American journalism’s finest tweetstorms

Photo via Flickr

Hear ye, hear ye: In honor of Monday’s Pulitzer Prize ceremony, the twilight of media awards season, CJR is handing out the first (and likely last, let’s be honest) Most Exemplary Tweetstorm Awards.

We are of course cognizant that hating on Twitter threads has become its own sub-genre. The diehards of traditional blogging at the sites formerly known as Gawker Media have taken special offense at the new style stepping on their turf, running not one, but two, think pieces trashing it in December. It’s “like manspreading, but of digital space,” explained Gizmodo. “Fuck tweetstorms,” a Deadspin headline proclaimed.

TRENDING: 10 podcasts to help you keep up with the news cycle

Such content stands on the shoulders of BuzzFeed writer and OG tweetstorm critic Charlie Warzel, who nailed the argument from which all other threading takedowns flow way back in 2014:

The fundamental criticism of the tweetstorm™ goes beyond the simple “get a blog” mentality. At its root, the tweetstorm™ feels like an abuse of power/influence or, at the very least, a slightly inconsiderate, oblivious way to engage with people who’ve chosen to follow you (granted, users can obviously choose to opt-out at any time with an unfollow). In earnestly embarking on a tweetstorm™, the tweetstormer™ is tacitly admitting that he or she has many important things to say and an infinite listener attention span in which to say them.

It is true that the form can be abused—here’s looking at you, game theory guy—jumping out of smartphone screens and stinging the nostrils. But allow me to propose a counter-take: Tweetstorms can be a good vehicle for journalism.


For calming us all down: Rukmini Callimachi, for quickly explaining all the terrifying news alerts we get about the Islamic State or other terror groups.

For grabbing hold of the firehose: Sopan Deb, for collecting in one place what seems like every statement by then-candidate and now-President Donald Trump.

For telling the story behind the story: Ben Taub, for laying out the motivation and reporting process for his New Yorker feature on human trafficking

For talking like a human: ProPublica, for pushing back on PR spin, elevating its journalism, and actually treating Twitter like a publishing platform—all in a conversational voice.

For tapping the brakes: James Fallows, for injecting historical context into a medium that desperately needs it.

 For peeking behind the curtain: Maggie Haberman, for spilling her notebook and adding value to her already excellent newspaper reports on the Trump administration.

For illuminating, if occasionally odd, think pieces on politics and culture: Jeet Heer, for helping to popularize this form of writing and taking all the flak that came with it.

Who did I miss? Tweet your thoughts to me @DavidUberti. I smell a storm coming.

TRENDING: Paper fires back at criticism of article on United passenger’s past

Has America ever needed a media watchdog more than now? Help us by joining CJR today.

David Uberti is a CJR staff writer and senior Delacorte fellow. Follow him on Twitter @DavidUberti.