Monday, April 27, 2009

The Power of Twitter

Like most people I had heard of twitter here and there for about 2 years but never bothered to join. I think I have a Myspace(ashamed to admit that) that I have checked maybe 3 or 4 times since I joined. Facebook had its charm but that was lost once every little middle schooler.....and their mother.....and for that matter their mother's mother were let in. But about 5 months ago I ended up joining twitter.

Something about Twitter captures you right from the start. It's plain and simple....and that's the way I like it. The way Facebook was at the start before all the little applications started crawling in. It's a simple concept, you communicate in 140 characters at a time. It's a breeding ground for potentially great dialogue. Ever since I joined way back on the 5th of December 2008, I went out looking for people I could engage with on politics and sports. Sure enough there are plenty of good people on there adding to a great open discourse. These people include politicians, journalists who cover said politicians and then the most important and me.

Yes, twitter does that. It is a platform where athletes like Shaquille O'Neal can bypass the media and reach out to the fans. It is a platform where if I see something I don't like on the networks of NBC I can send a message straight to the source....and more then likely get a reply back in a short time frame. I have to give major credit for the likes of David Shuster who have embraced twitter and do engage in a dialogue with the audience. There have been instances while watching the coverage I've noticed an error or two and sent a message straight to the anchor of the show where it was made and sure a reply acknowledging that mistake.

There are some really quality people who's feed should be followed by all. You have reporters like Ana Marie Cox who tweet from Washington and do so in a very smart and funny manner. David Gregory and George Stephanopoulos there all the time seeking feedback and potential questions for guests on "Meet the Press" and "This Week." Those are just a few but there are plenty of others who have embraced twitter and helped add to the dialogue there. Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post is another quality one and him (@thehyperfix) and Ana Marie Cox (@amclive)take it a step further by "live tweeting" special political events like this upcoming Prime Time Presidential News Conference. Twitter is an equal opportunity platform...from young and old billionaires to a student deep in tuition debt. I looked at this as an outlet to communicate with both wings of our political spectrum....and yes that includes journalists from both sides. So far Christina Bellantoni is the only good journalist I've found from a right wing outlet....anyone have any other recommendations?

The beauty of twitter is it is not just a platform where news is has quickly become a platform where news is made. Just this past weekend Woody Johnson used Twitter to announce that the Jets had moved up in the NFL Draft to take Mark Sanchez who in turn was able to immediate express his love for New York (real or fake is your call). This past weekend the NFL, SportsCenter and columnists like Peter King were able to give instant feedback on the NFL Draft. As a side note here to further demonstrate the powers of twitter....during the draft yesterday I was communicating with Sports Illustrated's Peter King. I made a little joke about the Raiders draft strategy and just like that I get to be quoted in a Sports Illustrated column monday morning (Monday Morning Edit. Here is the column from Peter King...I am quoted on page 4). When that small plane crashed near Buffalo a month or so ago the first pictures of the crash were transmitted via twitter as it took the media some time to get to the crash site but neighbors with their cellphones were able to quickly put up pictures that were used in several media outlets.

Is there a danger that all the celebrities being on there can take away the positive impact twitter can have on our national (and international) dialogue? Sure. There are plenty of celebrities who haven't grasped the concept but have joined just because of the hype surrounding twitter. You will see plenty of people that are followed by tens of thousands of people but who in turn follow only a handful of close friends. Memo to those people....that's why the e-mail was invented. If you are only on twitter to talk to friends or trying to use it as a self promotion've missed the boat. Chances are you'll be tuned out pretty fast by the masses. Unfortunately there are plenty of people like this. People who are only on twitter to post a link to there latest column, blog post or TV segment. These people are completely missing the boat.

This brings me to the negatives of twitter. Just like blogs it gives anyone....and I mean anyone a platform to reach an infinite about of people. This obviously can be a really bad thing as people who want to spread lies and hatred have an easy venue to do that from. Just search the term "nobama" on twitter and see how many ignorant and racist people walk amongst us. While there is little you can do about extremists like those people the problem becomes more major when a journalist uses not only their column but twitter as well to spread lies. The problem becomes even bigger when said journalists choose to just "block" the people who question their reporting rather then actually sticking around to discuss their report (and I do use that term lightly). Amanda Carpenter of Washington Times and the O'Reilly Factor has been front and center of this debate for the past week to ten days. This all started with her absolutely bias coverage of the so called tax day "Tea Party". People like me called her out on her biased coverage which was based around comparing this "tea party" to the Boston Tea Party when the two weren't remotely related. People like me pressed her on why she made no mention of the anti-Obama attitudes at these events. Attitude that I discussed in an earlier post. I never did get a reply from her and quickly found myself "blocked" by her thus her updates no longer appear on my main page and I can't send a message out to her. The same thing happened to a few other people today when they pointed out glaring mistakes in her columns....and sure enough they got blocked by her. A little while later she made a post saying:
Just a note: anyone who writes obscene/pornographic things about me, or converses with people who do, will be blocked from my Twitter feed.

Either she's lying right there or has one hell of way to define obscene. What a coward. What a copout. When you don't have facts to back you up...hide behind your column and use a weak excuse. Here is a link to every mention of or message to Amanda Carpenter I've made on twitter. Someone find something obscene or pornographic. Still looking? You're not going to find anything. Same thing happened to two people I regularly talk politics with on twitter mediagadfly (and all his mentions of Amanda Carpenter)and @teresakopec (and all her mentions of Amanda Carpenter)Mediagadfly just posted a nice blog entry on this Amanda Carpenter journalism tactic and the cheap editing job she (or someone at the Washington Times) did today. What makes the whole Amanda Carpenter story is that just this week she tried to arrange a "tweet up". What was she expecting there? She is aware that people who disagree with her will show up too right? Does she know you can't "block" someone in real life? Does she know that you have to actually respond to someone when they come to you with facts?

And I won't even begin to talk about the hate spreading machines that are Michelle Malkin and Karl Rove....that post might end up being longer then most novels.

Real quickly to wrap this up as it is 2:30 AM....embrace twitter for what it is. Come engage in a dialogue. Don't try to use it as a marketing tool....embrace the simplistic nature of it. You can reach me on twitter @sahyder1, via e-mail at or just leave a comment here.

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