I miss the relative solitude of the pre-Internet era.
The media voices we heard then were not just fewer, they were better-informed. (At least, a higher percentage of them were so.) And likewise, their opinions were considered. Because they had to pass under the gin-blossomed noses of crusty editors who could rant for days about misplaced commas, let alone accuracy and fairness.
Today, the world is a giant, freshly painted outdoor wall and Twitter has given everyone a spray can.
“Tweets” promise tremendous news-update value, but their 140-character limit doesn’t afford much context. As evidenced by the stream of vitriol triggered last week whenfinalized its acquisition of the U.S. Treasury Dept.’s 6% stake in .
At first, the messages were simple and factual. “Government loses $1.3 billion onbailout,” said one. But their tone quickly changed.
“Nice job Mr President...Taxpayers lose $1.3 billion as govt. exits Chrysler,” said one Tweet.
Said another (minus some vulgarity): “What union or what Obama flunky has pocketed this money?”
Nowhere did I see that Chrysler had repaid $11.2 billion of its $12.5 billion taxpayer-funded loan. Nor was there any acknowledgement that government intervention, however onerous, prevented an industry-wide implosion with far greater consequences for an already shaky economy.
In an analysis of the aid packages that saved Chrysler and fellow Chapter 11-filer GM, the Center for Automotive Research found “the government’s actions avoided personal-income losses totaling $96 million, 1.1 million net job losses in 2009, and another 314,400 in 2010.”
Some 23,000 of those jobs are today the subject of contract talks between Chrysler – whose first-half sales were tracking 21.7% ahead of like-2010 – and the UAW.
Then I wondered, was the Twitter nation’s dearth of insight limited to the auto industry? Surely, not every account-holder is prone to rash, knee-jerk assessments of the day’s headlines.
I got my answer as news of Yao Ming’s retirement began to unfold.
“yao ming is terrible, thank god he is done,” said one Tweet.
The all-important context: Ming was an NBA all-star in each of his eight seasons in the league and averaged 19 points and 9.2 rebounds per game. He retired because of a chronic foot injury.