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LA Times 'black Twitter' reporter on the emergence of a community and conversation

Pictured: Dexter Thomas, who was named as the black Twitter reporter for the LA Times in July 2015.
Pictured: Dexter Thomas, who was named as the black Twitter reporter for the LA Times in July 2015.
Cornell Daily Sun

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The L.A. Times recently announced the hire of several new reporters, which is normally nothing newsworthy. But this time, someone mentioned in a company-wide email naming the new roles and individuals caught everyone’s eye: new hire Dexter Thomas, or more specifically, his beat.

Thomas explicitly is charged with covering so-called "black Twitter," the space where African Americans from across the country converge to talk about community issues and advance social movements.

The black Twitter phenomenon has proven itself a powerful instrument in promoting national conversations about race and diversity. Many of the year’s top racial stories started first among black Twitter participants. In addition to fomenting viral movements online, black Twitter has organized boycotts and even publicly chastised figures in the media.

Thomas told Take Two that his job will be to find the stories that often go untold.

“I think what people talk about, when they talk about 'black Twitter,' is a very, very narrow version of what black people are doing on Twitter,” Thomas said. “A lot of my job is to talk about these stories and talk about how complicated this really is … So really, my job more than anything is about communities and showing how those communities interact, and working with those communities to tell their own stories.”

University of North Texas journalism professor Meredith Clark penned the dissertation, “To tweet our own cause: A mixed-methods study of the online phenomenon ‘black Twitter.” She tells Take Two that reaction from the Twitter community has been mixed.

“I’ve seen [a little bit] of fear about being surveyed all the time," she said. "I’ve seen some encouraging words about someone paying attention to what young black people are talking about on social media. I think, overall, people are cautious about where this is going to go and what implications it has for larger news networks.”

Click the button above to hear the full conversation with L.A. Times’ Dexter Thomas and professor Meredith Clark.