Jeremy Jojola, a 9News investigative reporter known for his no-holds-barred approach to the sorts of subjects many of his peers avoid, has been a frequent Twitter user for well over a decade. But on August 14, he left the social media service with a single word: "Goodbye."
The decision to bid farewell to the platform was a long time coming. "I've cultivated some great stories on it over the years," Jojola acknowledges. "But looking back at my archives, my reporting is not dependent on Twitter. It's a good place to share breaking news, but for me right now, it's a poisonous place to be."
In December 2019, we revealed that Jojola had received neo-Nazi threats connected to his stories on the activities of white-supremacist groups. At the time, he pointed to a pair of tweets from Joshua Michael, who has been widely identified as a member of the alt-right organization known as the Proud Boys. Michael tweeted: "@jeremy jojola works at 9news and is a communist propaganda creator working against America dig into him go to his job go to his home go to his child's daycare treat these traitors the way they treat us and we will take the fight out of their fingertips."
Cut to early 2020, when Jojola filed a restraining order against Samuel Cordova, who'd pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor bias-motivated crime related to a June 2019 act of vandalism at BookBar over an event called "Drag Queen Story Time," for making an uninvited visit to Jojola's home that was ballyhooed on social media. At the time, Jojola's wife was home alone with their then-two-month-old baby.
The birth of his child was a factor in Jojola's Twitter split, as was what he sees as an increasingly coarse tone among users after the rise of COVID-19. "Since the pandemic began, I've noticed that things have gotten worse," he allows. "I would post something and I would get these horrible replies from anonymous accounts. And a lot of times, I would get messages sent directly to my inbox, saying horrible things about me and my family. Me being a dad, it really changed my perspective on being in the public eye."
He adds that "even public officials, whether they're on the left or the right, shouldn't be subjected to this kind of anonymous toxicity. When you run for public office, it comes with the territory: You're going to get a lot of nasty messages. But there's a point where our humanity has to come into play. All of us are human beings, and it affects us. Al Tompkins, who's a journalism guru, calls it 'death by duck bite.' The initial bite is minimal and small, but if ducks are constantly nipping at you all day long, it's eventually going to cause some harm. And that ranges from journalists to politicians to police officers to celebrities to anyone in the public eye. Why be in that sphere when it's that toxic?"
In the past, Jojola had plenty of reasons. He used Twitter, which he joined in 2008, to communicate with sources and viewers, as well as to share his reporting process. "It was such an inherent part of my career that I believed it was absolutely necessary for a long time," he says. "But when I thought about it, I realized that a lot of my stories now come from outside Twitter — from conversations with people who reach out by email or send tips to the station. These days, Twitter isn't a place where people seek out journalists with tips. It's a place where people seek out journalists to punch them in the face in a digital way."
9News colleague Kyle Clark is a master at social media, as Jojola acknowledges: "I wish I had half the grace he does. He handles it with such wit. But I'm not Kyle. I'm myself, and it's not the right place for me right now — and my social media manager understands."
In fact, 9News has no station-wide mandate that on-air talent must tweet, unlike some other outlets around the country. "I feel bad for my fellow journalists who have to be on Twitter," Jojola stresses.
Since dropping the Twitter habit, Jojola has been much happier. "It was the first thing I'd check in the morning — but I would wince inside, because I was prepared to see an onslaught of nasty messages overnight," he recalls. "Now I don't have to do that."
At present, Jojola believes, "the platform's not good for our country the way it is now. It's not a place where people are going for healthy, civil, constructive discussions. It's a place where there's a lot of fighting, and nothing good comes of it. I've rarely seen anyone change their mind or their perspective on Twitter. It's a battleground — American versus American. And I just don't like seeing people in our country going after each other like that. So I left, and if I come back, it's not going to be for a very long time — or at least not until things calm down."
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