(Note: This is Part 2 of a 3 Part series on the upheaval of social media and the impact on radio. Part 1 is here. Part 3 will post tomorrow, April 13.)
Today, there were three important announcements in public radio:
- NPR announced that they have stopped posting new content to any of its 52 official Twitter feeds. NPR CEO John Lansing is quoted as saying, “At this point I have lost my faith in the decision-making at Twitter. I would need some time to understand whether Twitter can be trusted again.” In a memo to staff, Lansing said, “It would be a disservice to the serious work you all do here to continue to share it on a platform that is associating the federal charter for public media with an abandoning of editorial independence or standards.”
- LAist (formerly branded KPCC-FM) in Los Angeles also announced they’ve pulled the plug on Twitter. Their tweet concluded with, “More information in this thread.”
- Louisville Public Media made a thoughtful statement on Twitter, including a reference to this week’s bank murders, “Particularly after the events of this week in Louisville, where many in our community turned to social media for the latest updates on tragic events, we believe we should continue using Twitter to post fact-based, independent civic news that serves the public interest.”
In Part 1 of “Bye Bye Birdy: Should Public Radio Should Fly Away From Twitter?,” we presented the facts around changes at Twitter since an ownership change last October. In Part 2 of our blog series on social media upheaval, Paragon Consultants Mike Henry, Izzi Smith, and Michelle Conrad stake out their positions for local public radio stations.
Local NPR News stations that rely on fact-based journalism can’t afford to be linked to an inconsistent and unreliable platform. Public radio music stations core values, which lean into supporting local artists and musicians representing all facets of humankind and genres, are diametrically opposed to the new open season on minorities of race and gender on Twitter. Shouldn’t public radio stations respect their core values, understand the damage that can be done by continuing a Twitter association, and take a stance to protect their brand values?
Radio has been around for 103 years. Do you believe Twitter will be around in 2109 (103 years after it started)? How long are you willing to let the current, rapidly evolving situation play out before making your choice?
Public radio stations should follow the lead of KCRW and others and cancel their Twitter accounts. Any commercial radio station with brand pillars that are not aligned with Twitter should follow suit. Bye bye, birdy.
Every public media organization should evaluate this situation based on its own values, community needs, and what you know about where and how you reach audiences. Whatever, and however you decide, center audiences in your thinking, just as you would for any other platform. If you stay, how might that impact public service and perception? If choose to leave, what happens in the short and long term? How long are you willing to let the current, rapidly evolving situation play out before making your choice?
Like anything complicated, this decision can and should have layers. A decision to stop tweeting from a main account might be different from guidance a station gives to its reporters and hosts. While NPR and KCRW have suspended activity for their main accounts, their hosts and journalists remain active.
For news stations it’s difficult because Twitter has been used as the breaking news platform. The last thing you want to do is sever connection between loyal followers and stations, so the decision for news stations is more challenging. Yes, news stations can always direct users to another platform, but the functionality of Instagram, for example, is quite different from Twitter.
With how erratic the platform has become, it’s hard to predict the future of Twitter. Because leaving Twitter may not be a black and white decision for stations, it’s never a bad idea to hit the pause button rather than the full stop button. As mentioned, so much of what Twitter has become is far from aligned with the morals and core values of public radio. For NPR News stations, pausing your account to stand with NPR and your morals would be my suggestion when navigating the current instability of Twitter.
For music stations, I have long suggested that stations drop Twitter. Long before Elon, the engagement between bands and artists with stations dropped, which had been one of the main Twitter benefits. Ultimately, it’s the lack of alignment with public media core values compared to what Twitter has become that cements my recommendation to drop Twitter.
Whatever you do, pause or full stop, it’s imperative that you make a statement so your followers don’t feel like you’ve disappeared. Communicate the “why” of your decision and tell them where they can find you in other spaces on social.
As you can see, developing a consensus opinion even within Paragon has not occurred yet. We can only imagine the divided positions within radio stations. However, now is not the time to keep your head in the sand. This is the time to open the internal discussions and decide where your radio station stands.
Please use our Comments to let us know if you agree or disagree, and what, if any, actions you are taking with your radio station.
Editor Note: Later on the same day, April 12, 2023, PBS announced it was also suspending its use of Twitter, and additional local public radio stations announced that they have stopped posting on Twitter.
June 5, 2023: Twitters U.S. Ad Sales Plunge 59% as Woes Continue