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Defector Blogger Calls Aggregator Tweets “Pathetic” In Furious Takedown. Do You Agree?

collage of tweets aggregating quotes
Defector Media/via Twitter

I tried to get the r/tennis subreddit to stop linking to tweets from @TheTennisLetter, an account with more than 100,000 followers. Why would I do such a thing? If you follow them, you know that the account cheerily supports players, posts news and quotes faster than almost anyone else, and features the sharpest photos and most relevant videos. What’s not to like? 

Well, The Tennis Letter is a parasite. Almost none of what they post is original. They are an aggregator—consuming all the tennis content there is to consume, then copy-pasting it under their own account and only listing the source at the bottom of their enhanced-length tweets. Here's an example: 

“Listing the source” might be going easy on them. They missed that the quote was from a story called “Ben Shelton’s Big Break,” written by Kevin Nguyen and available to read here. Links are rare, and writer or photographer names are practically nonexistent in Tennis Letter tweets. But since the account has grown so much—they have more followers than Alex de Minaur, currently the world No. 9 on the ATP—the bastardized versions of someone else's work get much more Twitter traction than the original.

Tennis writers like Ben Rothenberg and players like Taylor Fritz have commented on the unethical practices and informational gaps of The Tennis Letter. But its deficient journalism hasn't inhibited its growth. Pissed off at The Tennis Letter’s blatant heists, I explained their deal on r/tennis and briefly succeeded in getting the mods to ban their tweets, which users frequently posted to discuss news, from the page. They were back before long, because The Tennis Letter is fast, and as with too many things, convenience is valued over quality. At a time when media companies are even cutting back on in-person local coverage, very few outlets want to pay for writers to cover such an international sport up close. It's a wasteland, and The Tennis Letter is thriving in it.

There are many other varieties of Tennis Letter tweets that have helped the account explode in popularity. There's the post-match interview tweet that doesn't credit the interviewer. There's the question that stirs up their audience. (They never engage with the responses, suggesting that they don’t actually care about them.) And there's the repost of a video to hijack its virality:

There’s no substance here whatsoever. But what's even more depressing is when I see "legitimate" media companies aping the same vapid style. Look at this tweet from The Athletic, which also omits the source: Kevin Clark’s ESPN show This Is Football.

The Athletic tweeting like an aggregator is fucking sad, though it is also pathetic. This is a massive outlet with a big budget and a tremendous network of talented writers and reporters. Unimaginative fans like The Tennis Letter using other people’s work to go viral is like a student cheating on a test; The Athletic, and by extension the New York Times, sinking to the same level is the damn teacher lying down and giving up. These aggregators serve no purpose. Fire the whole practice into the sun. 

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