A Hat Tip for This Reporter’s Tweets

Jun 20, 2018

As claims and counter-claims ricocheted back and forth this week about the separation of children from their parents crossing the border, I found myself hooked on one public media Twitter account.

So, here’s a hat tip to @LisaDNews, NewsHour correspondent Lisa Desjardins. Although buried in the daily scrum of Capitol Hill news, Desjardins manages a robust Twitter feed that steers clear of cynicism or snarkiness while adding discrete information.

Consider: When Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen told a White House press briefing that there was a 315 percent increase in newcomers falsely claiming they were a parent-child family units, Desjardins weighed in with a math moment. She quickly noted that that such a large percentage increase could be calculated on a very small base.

Indeed, news reports soon disclosed that there were 191 cases of false family claims between last October and February, fewer than 1 percent of all families apprehended at the border.

When ProPublica released audio of confined children crying, an audio that looped again and again through the day’s news feeds, Desjardins issued a go-slow caution, noting that we didn’t know the context of the recording or the intent of the border agents heard on the file.

When Trump administration officials foisted blame on Congress in general, or Democrats in particular, Desjardins weighed in with a “Dear White House” note: “FYI, you also have the ability to propose legislation.  You can take the lead and put something on the table,” she reminded.

She also noted that the president himself ditched an earlier immigration plan that might have passed.

While much is made about transparency in journalism these days, Desjardins is very open about the questions that arise in her daily reporting. On Tuesday when Trump declared, “We don’t want judges, we want security on the border,” Desjardins tweeted: “I get the enforcement first idea, absolutely. But this raises question – does @realDonaldTrump understand the justice process. That there is a process after someone is detained?” 

Likewise, when the U.S. Supreme Court declined to rule broadly on a Maryland gerrymandering case, Desjardins asked: why take the case at all?

While many reporters unpack political strategy in morning-after analyses, Desjardins sometimes does it in an immediate tweet, like her reaction Tuesday to a post from Brad Parscale, Trump’s 2020 campaign manager: “Time to fire Sessions. End the Mueller investigation.”

“Wow,” Desjardins said. “So he might be interested in generating a new headline. (vs. “Kids in cages.”)

But she also noted that firing Sessions now could “push GOP senators to actually rebel. (But hard to say.)”

We reached out to Desjardins for some insights on her Twitter philosophy, but didn't hear back before publication. All in all, she has steered clear of flogging her stories. She pokes a hole in news stories that quickly begin to overinflate. And she addresses official conduct with considered questions, not overt condemnation.

All get points in my book.