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The L.A. Times Hires A New Reporter To Cover 'Black Twitter'

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The Los Angeles Times building (Photo by Kevin Britton via the LAist Featured Photos pool on Flickr)
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The Los Angeles Times announced that it has hired a journalist dedicated to covering the influential online community known as Black Twitter.

Dexter Thomas, who is also a doctoral candidate in East Asian studies at Cornell University among many other things, will use social media to develop stories on issues related to race, the black community and other online communities. In the past, Thomas has written about social justice, Internet and youth culture, as well as video games. Managing Editor S. Mitra Kalita, announced the new hire in a memo to the staff:

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.

In an interview with AllDigitocracy.org, Thomas explains why he thinks his background makes sense for the job,

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It’s a background that makes sense because it’s a mix of different things, just like Black Twitter is a mix of different things. Not everyone who follows Black Twitter is black. Just like in the past, a lot of activism happening today has people who have covered these same issues and served as a bridge between larger media outlets and the activists, and many of them have been Asian-American. It’s important to explore the fragments of those who are telling the stories. I’m interested in what blacks, Asians and Latinos are doing offline with this.

Not surprisingly, Twitter is on fire today with a full spectrum of reactions to his hire, including Thomas' own Twitter handle, @dexdigi:

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Stereo Williams, in his article "The Power of Black Twitter" for The Daily Beast helps to further explain the issue:

In the past three years, Twitter has become a necessary platform for dissent, discussion, breaking news and, yes, trends. And in the case of what has become colloquially known as “Black Twitter,” all of those things have gelled to create an online culture of black intellectuals, trendsetters, and talking heads giving voice to many of the issues that 20 years ago would’ve remained far away from the mainstream radar. The murders of Trayvon Martin and Mike Brown, the reality of street harassment, the racial crisis brewing in the Dominican Republic—these are all stories that became of major importance because Black Twitter made sure the world understood what was happening. And with popular hashtags like #YouOKSis and #BringBackOurGirls becoming recognized all over the world, it’s impossible to ignore how Black Twitter has been able to affect change and raise awareness.
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A recent study from the Pew Research Center shows that 40 percent of black 18-to-29 year olds are active on Twitter, compared with only 28 percent of white Twitter users in the same age range.