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Politico.com Media Critic Dylan Byers Talks About Twitter And Robert Costa’s Move To The Washington Post

Friday, November 8, 2013

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HH: Dylan Byers is the media critic at Politico.com. Hi, Dylan, welcome.

DB: Thank you so much for having me.

HH: I’ve got to begin with the synchronicity. Twitter goes public today, blows through the roof, and Robert Costa goes to the Washington Post. Those stories are connected. Do you agree?

DB: I think that’s fair. I think that at least most recently, Costa’s made a name for himself on Twitter. I mean, he was certainly leading the charge on Twitter with his coverage of the government shutdown.

HH: You see, Robert’s been a fixture on this program for years, and he is endlessly energetic, and he never stops working. And he was all over the shutdown. He’s all over everything. He was very close to the Romney campaign. But his preferred mode of communication is Twitter, even though he will later expand at National Review’s Corner. What do you think the Post is going to use him for?

DB: Well, I think the Post will rely on him to do the traditional articles that they expect to be published for the print edition and online, but they’re absolutely going to be relying on him to do, to be very prolific on Twitter. I think like his greatest strength, no question, is covering the Republican Party. And I think that even though he’s a national political correspondent now, they’re still going to be relying on him to do that. And I’ve got to say, for an organization like the Washington Post, same thing with the New York Times, what you’re looking for are those reporters who simultaneously are very good at doing the 1,200-1,400 word piece, but who also are pumping stuff out on Twitter, reliable stuff on Twitter, throughout the day.

HH: And occasionally funny stuff, and that are also available on the media. Now Dylan, I don’t know if you’ve ever done this story. I would recommend it to you. If you had to list the ten most influential Twitterers in Washington, D.C, is Robert Costa on that list?

DB: That’s a great question. It’s actually a great piece to do. If, it depends on what kind of metrics you set by which to measure that. But I would certainly say that if you’re a political junkie, and you are looking for a reliable source on what’s going on with the Republican Party especially on the Hill, or during a campaign, let’s say the Romney campaign, yeah, I would absolutely put him on that list. No question.

HH: Yeah, you know, there are, there’s a very short list. Mark Halperin’s on it, and actually, I follow you, Dylan, and Mike Allen’s on it as well. There are people who are wired and inside of the Beltway, and they all use Twitter, which is why, here’s the irony, Philip Klein, one of my colleagues from the Washington Examiner, was I think saying that Twitter was overvalued, but he was doing so on Twitter. It’s become the media. I know you guys are sort of an annex to it over at Politico, but Twitter’s become the commons. It’s everywhere everybody lives and works.

DB: Yeah, no, it’s absolutely where the conversation is happening, and where the conversation has been happening for quite some time, which makes it an extraordinarily valuable tool. I mean, you know, I’m no market expert. I don’t think it’s overvalued at all. It’s hard to see how any sort of social media platform, including Facebook, could be more valuable at least to reporters and consumers of news, especially consumers who are looking at their news throughout the day.

HH: And this is what I want to test on you. My theory is, and I bought some today, so I am invested in it, so I could lose it all or I could make more, is that the barriers to entry are too high. Twitter got there first. It was the big bang of instant communication. No one will ever migrate. We’re all kind of tied into this thing, Dylan Byers. What do you think?

DB: Yeah, no, I think that’s absolutely true. I think the other thing you have to look at is there is always room for development in terms of social media networks, right? So Facebook thinks that they’ve got it all in terms of being a great place to post photographs. And along comes Instagram, which actually does it better, because it puts more of an emphasis on photographs, less of an emphasis on text, that sort of thing. The thing with Twitter is how are you going to, Twitter is moving in real time. Every reporter is on it. A lot of celebrities are on it. A lot of influential people are on it. How are you ever going to create something that is a faster, better means of communication? You can’t. And in fact, the fact that it’s limited to 140 characters is actually an asset, because it guarantees that you’re not going to be reading long screeds all day.

HH: That’s it. I actually believe the barriers to entry are enormous. Now last question, there are a lot of, I know the young conservatives. I have them all the show, people like Guy Benson, people like Conn Carroll, folks who know that medium. Who is the Robert Costa on Twitter of the left, Dylan Byers?

DB: That’s a really good question, and because when you say the left, I think it’s important to remember that Robert Costa is not, he’s obviously not a right wing pundit. He’s somebody who loves, is fascinated by the Republican Party and conservatives, and loves covering conservatives. So you’d have to identify a reporter on the left who’s very good at covering the left, and I don’t know, I’m not exactly sure who that is. I think we can name a lot of reporters who skew left, a lot of people from the left, pundits from the left, the sort of Mother Jones-MSNBC atmosphere, but I don’t know if there’s anybody covering the Democratic Party or the progressive movement as well as Robert Costa is covering conservatives.

HH: There isn’t. And I think there’s a story in that as to why, because you’d get shunned if you did. Dylan Byers of Politico.com, always a pleasure, Dylan.

End of interview.

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