But the app is still a valuable tool for a lot of activists, elected officials, and journalists in Rhode Island, including The Public’s Radio's own Ian Donnis. He's joined by Ted Nesi to unpack what's going on with Twitter, and why it matters.

Ian Donnis: I'm joined by another heavy Twitter user Ted Nesi. Politics & economics editor for WPRI TV channel 12. Hey there, Ted

Ted Nesi: Hey Ian. Is this an intervention for our Twitter usage, maybe? 

Ian: It really is.

Ian Donnis: It seems like the best and worst of times for Twitter, some people have left the messaging app because their dislike for Elon Musk and what his control has meant for the app, as we've seen here in Rhode Island, but Twitter remains a big metaphorical watercooler when news breaks, like when David Cicilline revealed recently his plan to step down from Congress. It was just like the old days.

Ted Nesi: I agree Ian, and I think Twitter in the end is mostly to me about the people who were there, the news outlets, the reporters, the public officials, and the members of the public who I think you and I both found, people we didn't know in real life (IRL has the kids say) who started to write back to us with smart comments and pointed out things to us. And so it's sort of it's been jarring to realize that that  whole the community and everything is at the mercy and the whims of a pretty mercurial executive who bought it on a whim but had the money to do so. And now, it just feels really uncertain where it's going.

Ian Donnis: Yeah, and I'll acknowledge being pretty skeptical back around 2009, when someone encouraged me to get on Twitter.   I mean it took time for the political Twittersphere to develop in Rhode Island the legislature was kind of slow.

Ted Nesi: Yeah, and I think particularly for young reporters, I mean, if I recall, I think part of how you noticed me when Ian was much more famous than me at the time, in my early days in journalism, and I posted some decent stories or had some decent points on news of the day, and Ian noticed me mentioned me in the public's radio roundup he was doing at the time. And, you know, for I think early career reporters, especially, it's been a powerful way to kind of get noticed, get your work seen. But Twitter was a way to kind of find an audience for that. And so I think, you know, I hope that's not going to be lost also. So we see the next round of voices who are coming up in the news media here and around and everywhere.

Ian Donnis: There's a lot of uncertainty at the same time in the tech press about where Twitter goes from here, and even whether it will survive. What is your read on that?

Ted Nesi: You know, I've learned as a reporter never to predict the future too much, because someone will play it back to me when I was wrong. But I think, you know, on the one hand, I think Twitter might be more durable than people have been thinking at times. There are Twitter alternatives that have come out, but none of them have the critical mass of people from all perspectives of organizations, et cetera. I mean, if everyone is on 10 different versions of Twitter, and some people aren't one and some people aren't second, some people are third, well, then none of it's what Twitter was, which was just the kind of gathering place for everybody, even warts and all. So I think the fact that folks are there, will keep it going for a while, unless Musk does something really bad with the technology of it. 

You know, Twitter's rise has kind of overlapped with the further decline of newspapers in particular, and just the, you know, everyone getting their media everywhere. And one thing I don't think I realized till we had these recent challenges with Twitter is how it had sort of replaced a bit of a central place where a lot of folks who care about what's going on the news, current affairs, would all kind of check in, in certain places, and therefore know, okay, everyone saw that story today. Now, it's a topic of conversation. You can't trust anymore, everyone looked at the paper in the morning, or that everyone watched the six o'clock news or that everyone listened to all things considered, and your reports within there, et cetera. And so I just fear that not to say that Twitter was a replacement for all that but I just don't know where we're going to get kind of the common set of facts that then we all debate in public life. If there are so few places, we feel like a bulk of the public gets information. And again, I shouldn't claim that Twitter was that surveys away show Twitter only it's like 20 something percent of people use it and Facebook's like 60 and 70.

Ian Donnis: Sure. At the same time, though, if you add up your Twitter following and mine, it's about 50,000. And that's more than the circulation right now of the Providence Journal. 

Ted Nesi: And we both know that if you send off a pointed tweet, you might get a text five minutes later from the public official you tweeted about so they're paying attention.

Ian Donnis: Find him at Ted Nesi. He's the politics/economics editor for WPRI TV channel. 12. Thanks for joining me, Ted. 

Ted Nesi: Thanks for having me, Ian.

Ian Donnis: You can still find me for now on Twitter at IanDon

Photo By Steve Jurvetson - Musk discussing a Neuralink device during a live demonstration in 2020 https://www.flickr.com/photos/jurvetson/50280652497/, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=93666208