Brevity is the soul of wit, and the bane of the feature writer

I wonder – does nobody buy Sunday papers any more because their contents are drivel, or can those papers only afford to commission drivel because nobody buys them?

Thankfully, the Independent on Sunday puts ‘editor-at-large’ Janet Street Porter’s column online, so we can read it for the cost of what it’s worth — approximately nothing.

I don’t suppose we can blame Street-Porter for the startlingly unoriginal headline, [Twitter ye not, for it will not change the world](http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/janet-street-porter/editoratlarge-twitter-ye-not-for-it-will-not-change-the-world-1772833.html). I mean, it only shows a healthy respect for the oeuvre of Frankie Howerd by the subeditors’ desk, albeit a respect that others [have shown before them](http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/feb/22/wikipedia-internet). However, the resulting spew of words can only be put down to her.

It takes 730 words for Street-Porter to demonstrate that she has no idea what she’s talking about when it comes to internet messaging service [Twitter](http://twitter.com).

> If I want to know whether a show is worth going to at the Edinburgh Festival, or if Bonnie Prince Billy’s latest album is worth buying, I certainly don’t want a 140-character Twitter; I want an intelligent review written in real sentences, not some bastard lingo that’s the ugly love-child of texting and abbreviations.

We can do that. For the Fringe, _The Stage_ is providing notifications of each one of its 350+ reviews through the [@EdinburghStage](http://twitter.com/EdinburghStage) account. Each review is, as Street-Porter requires, intelligently written by one of our six full-time (or a couple of additional, part-time) festival reviewers. The Twitter notification consists of the name of the production, its location and a link to the full review. If there’s room, we also include a short summary of the review but nobody’s under any illusion that this is the review in its entirety.

> Interestingly, teenagers have already sussed Twitter is crap and aren’t taking it up. According to a Nielsen survey, only 16 per cent of the people twittering are under 25, while a whopping 64 per cent are between 25 and 54. The largest group of users are aged 35 to 49 – and that’s enough to deter the young. The use of social networking is already dropping among teenagers as the number of 25-34 year-olds using sites such as Facebook increases. In fact, ITV might have sold Friends Reunited in the nick of time, because at this rate the only people trying to meet up via websites like it will be so middle-aged, dreary and dull that no one will bother logging on.

This is the same Janet Street-Porter who, five years ago, was saying [Yah-boo to the youth cult](http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/janet-street-porter/editoratlarge-yah-boo-to-the-youth-cult-555138.html):

> For a long time now I’ve been writing that this country’s obsession with youth is ludicrous, when it’s the crumblies who have all the power, the disposable income and the ability to vote Labour in or out at the next election.

“Yes, this obsession with youth is disgraceful. Except when I can use it to justify whatever conclusion I’ve decided I need to come to in order to fill this week’s page of newsprint.”

Back to today’s article:

> Twitter panders to all that is shallow and narcissistic in our society, reducing lives and experiences (like childbirth and death) to missives that last even less than the average British male’s attempts at foreplay.

“You see what I did there? A pop at masculinity, by implying every man’s bad in bed, just to prove a point about a service I don’t really understand. What’s that you say? By doing so, I’m being as shallow as I imply Twitter is? The very idea!”

The closing sentiment of Street-Porter’s diatribe really takes the biscuit.

> It makes me angry that we’re so keen to stop talking in sentences, and are swapping having real conversations for knee-jerk reactions. If this is the future for politics, we’re in trouble.

Forgetting, of course, that Twitter is a conversational tool, whose _component elements_ are limited to 140 characters. Those elements can then be built upon to build greater conversations, either on Twitter or diverging off onto blogs, message boards or the real world.

The knee-jerk, of course, is the bread and butter of the newspaper columnist, as shown here. And in an environment where journalists are paid by the word, brevity is far from being the soul of wit: it becomes the enemy of the purse.

To paraphrase Street-Porter herself, if columnists like her are the future for print journalism, no wonder it’s in trouble.