Dexter Thomas

The LA Times is making headlines for hiring a reporter to cover the influential social media collective known as Black Twitter.

You know you’ve arrived when a major newspaper outlet hires a singular reporter solely to cover the rantings and ratchet musings of a minority group on social media.

The irony in all this is there are more black people active on than on

The LA Times memo reads:

Dexter Thomas joins us today to cover Black Twitter (which really is so much more complicated than that). He will work closely with the newsroom and #EmergingUS to find communities online (Black Medium to Latino Tumblr to Line in Japan) and both create stories with and pull stories from those worlds. Dexter is from San Bernardino and is a doctoral candidate in East Asian studies at Cornell University. He has taught media studies and Japanese and is writing a book about Japanese hip-hop. He began working in digital media at UC Riverside as a student director of programming at KUCR-FM (88.3), independently producing podcasts, music and news programs. He writes regularly on social justice, Internet and youth culture, and video games.

The Huffington Post weighed in with a long, rambling post on why Dexter’s hiring might not be a good thing. The HuffPo’s reporter, who is black, suggested that the LA Times hired a Black Twitter reporter for clicks and page views.

Despite the potential good Thomas’ presence has in the LA Times newsroom, there are ethical questions surrounding a major publication acting as a gatekeeper for what is newsworthy in and from the black community. This doesn’t mean publications like the LA Times have bad intentions. In fact, it most likely to the contrary. But this hire could be an unintended furthering of a capitalistic relationship between black culture and mainstream interests, as journalism’s new business model turns site visits and views to dollars and cents.

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