PBS Joins NPR in Fleeing Twitter, and the Yawns Are Deafening

(Photo by Willy Sanjuan/Invision/AP)

As another publicly-backed news outlet quits the platform, we look at whether PBS walking off is impactful or not.

Immediately after National Public Radio saw its Twitter account affixed with the label “State-affiliated Media,” there were stern media reactions. The account went dormant and that eventually led to Elon Musk altering the label to now read “Government-funded Media”. This did little to appease the management and the announcement came down yesterday that NPR would leave the social platform.


Today, the Public Broadcasting Service has announced that it will be following suit, walking away from Twitter as well. There is a suggestion that this supposedly portends as a sign of other media fleeing the platform, which remains to be worth watching, but the histrionics and declarations are countered by some realities.

PBS is a relatively popular outlet, yet when looking through its recent posts, the level of engagement was barely a trickle. Currently, its account sits with 2.2 million followers, yet some of the most active tweets garnered only a few dozen responses and retweets, with most of the posts generating only a few at all.

NPR tech reporter Bobby Allyn states that Twitter was not a driver of traffic to any appreciable level. He stated that looking at internal metrics showed that less than two percent of the site’s traffic derived from Twitter. That being the case then, it seems his question to Elon Musk about NPR pulling about 52 accounts from the platform should also not move the needle in a noticeable way. 

This reality means that the dramatic exit by these outlets amounts to, “You won’t have us around to ignore any longer!” These promises to exit Twitter are also belied by the fact that as of now, neither NPR nor PBS has deleted their accounts. This is noted not to say that they need to take such action, but the reasons given for leaving would seem to indicate that would be a logical step.


Citing “the shadow of negativity” surrounding its journalism as a result of Elon’s tag, CEO of NPR John Lansing said, “I would never have our content go anywhere that would risk our credibility.” But if this is the case, why then leave the account active, since people can currently pull it up and see the label still in the bio? The very thing NPR opposes is still on display.

The comedy has been in the intemperate reactions from these outlets, as if it was a complete offense to suggest that either news network was a compromised source for news. Lansing, in comments made after the initial tag was placed on NPR’s account, tried to claim his outlet was above criticism.

NPR stands for freedom of speech and holding the powerful accountable. It is unacceptable for Twitter to label us this way. A vigorous, vibrant free press is essential to the health of our democracy.

On all three points, Lansing is provably incorrect. His network hosted an hour-long media program, with numerous guests, who all criticized the concept of free speech. His alleged support for a free press is countered by NPR constantly leveling criticism at FoxNews and even granting airtime to a group seeking to bankrupt the network through advertiser boycotts. As for holding the powerful accountable, that is laughable on its face, given the way it runs interference on behalf of the Democrats. Its infamous refusal to even touch the Hunter Biden laptop story is forever casting a shadow over NPR’s journalistic integrity.

But they are hardly alone on this front. PBS was also active – make that, “inactive” – on this news story as well. 


So it all comes down to a pair of biased and compromised news outlets with little user interaction announcing they are leaving Twitter. You need to question some of the wisdom behind the moves, considering that NPR struggles with a diminished audience leading to a spate of layoffs recently that slashed 10 percent of its workers. Making its content more difficult to find seems a dicey move, at best.

That is, if many people even notice.


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