Elon Musk continued attacking the press on Twitter, his newly acquired social-media platform.

As I wrote in Sunday’s column, this is strategic, as he’s trying to position Twitter as a trustworthy alternative to legacy news media.

This should prompt news organizations to reassess their unhealthy relationship with what’s become a pugnacious competitor — especially since he’s aiming to take subscription dollars that might otherwise support local and national newspapers.

In doing so, Musk is aligning with politicians and pundits who profit from sowing distrust in professionally reported news. This trickles down from The New York Times to local outlets that now depend on subscriptions to survive.

For the 73% of Americans who don’t bother with Twitter, here’s a sample of Musk tweets on Nov. 6 that highlight this new front in the journalism crisis.

“Twitter needs to become by far the most accurate source of information about the world. That’s our mission,” Musk tweeted on Nov. 6.


When this was questioned by Kyle Grantham, a former news photographer now working as a digital media manager for a county in Delaware, Musk fired back with an attack on journalists.

“You represent the problem: journalists who think they are the only source of legitimate information. That’s the big lie,” Musk said in response.

Grantham drew the wrath of the world’s richest man by noting the fallacy of making Twitter “the most accurate source” by letting anyone who “gives me money appear to be a legitimate source of news, rather than just ensuring all legitimate sources of news are confirmed to be who they say they are.”

The oracle continued.

“Widespread verification will democratize journalism & empower the voice of the people,” Musk tweeted.

Someone named Cody Johnson punctured that platitude: “If you believe in these ideas, you wouldn’t charge money to verify that someone is a human being worthy of being heard.”

Zimbabwean journalist Hopewell Chin’ono, who was harassed and imprisoned after using Twitter to call out government corruption, also replied.


“Are you confusing Free Speech with Journalism? Journalism is a profession. Not everyone who shares information is a journalist, and not all information is journalism. Populist posturing will actually kill real journalism and damage real journalists! Listen to real journalists!”

Musk’s broad-brush allegations that the press publishes false information mirror the unconstitutional charges used to imprison Chin’ono for reporting on police violence.

Musk apparently did not reply to Chin’ono’s tweet.

Alabama losing print: The three largest papers in Alabama announced they’ll stop printing and become online only news sites in 2023, after their combined print circulation fell to just 30,000 subscriptions.

The Birmingham News, Huntsville Times and Mobile Press-Register are owned by New York media conglomerate Advance Publications. It trimmed print frequency in several markets since announcing a digital strategy 2012, notably in a fumbled move to cut daily editions of its New Orleans paper that prompted local outrage. Advance also owns The Oregonian, which now delivers four print editions a week.

CEO Caroline Harrison told The Wall Street Journal that Advance will continue printing in other regions. “Where print continues to be profitable we’re all in,” she said. “We’re going to go where the audience tells us.”

This change can’t be good for Alabama, a state that trails much of the nation in connectivity, with 15% of its population having no internet subscription per a 2021 Census survey.


The state of 5 million residents also has above average poverty and unemployment, and below average education attainment. That suggests that it’s a challenging newspaper market but one that desperately needs more robust and accessible local news coverage, not less.

Recession fears: A recession “could threaten the embattled newspaper industry,” reports Axios, a digital news company that’s coincidentally trying to lure local newspaper readers to its newsletters. It quoted experts saying a recession could prompt more newspaper shutdowns, including by hedge funds that have milked what they can from chains. That could present opportunities, though, for local investors to acquire castoff local papers.

This is excerpted from the free, weekly Voices for a Free Press newsletterSign up to receive it at the Save the Free Press website.