Head of Twitter’s Ireland operation says many journalists are cynical

Irony of a social media boss finding fault with journalists for being sceptical is telling

Much of the focus of Sinéad McSweeney’s address seemed to be criticising journalists and media organisations for their failure generally to swallow whole whatever they were fed. Photograph:  Nicolas Asfouri/AFP/Getty Images

Much of the focus of Sinéad McSweeney’s address seemed to be criticising journalists and media organisations for their failure generally to swallow whole whatever they were fed. Photograph: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP/Getty Images

 

It was supposed to be a session looking at market trends in the PR industry – in particular, combating public mistrust.

The audience was the great and the good of the international PR world at the annual summit of the International Communications Consultancy Organisation, a group that makes its living by working to manage the message of their clients through the media.

But much of the focus of the address by Sinéad McSweeney, the head of social media group Twitter’s Irish operation – seemed to be criticising journalists and media organisations for their failure generally to swallow whole whatever they were fed.

She said many journalists nowadays tend to be cynical without having earned the right to be. They were disbelieving of information they received from communications professionals. She suggested this was because they were mistrustful and had agendas.

Speaking afterwards, she said it was a source of concern that people would come into a profession such as journalism with such a sense of mistrust. And she drew a line between such tearaways and those who had “earned their stripes”, however that might be.

Given the accommodation by social media platforms of rogue players in co-ordinated attacks to sway voters in national elections and other votes in recent times, the irony of a social media boss finding fault with journalists for being sceptical is telling.

For her own company, McSweeney said only that it was not in a position to determine what was true or not. However, she and her colleagues “took comfort in the fact that Twitter was a platform in which information can and is challenged and corrected in seconds”. Which, of course, is not the same as saying that untruths, malicious and otherwise don’t persist on the platform.

The theme of the PR event was: Shaping the Future of Public Relations. It sounds like the Twitter boss’s vision involves shooting the messenger. It was unclear how that would combat public mistrust.

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