Have you heard of Twitter? If you’re a geek who likes to play with new techie things, it’s really cool, and if you’re a news junkie or a curious person, it can provide an endless stream of behind-the-scenes peeks that make you giddy.
Quick overview: Twitter is a place that lets people share absurdly short messages (140 character or less) with their “followers,” which are sort of like blog subscribers. In fact, Twitter and tools like it are called microblogging. Because of this short format, Twitter is exceptionally flexible and lets people publish messages from their computer via Twitter.com, with a desktop application that publishes to the Web or by sending a text message from a mobile phone. People share thoughts about everything from what they had for breakfast to how shitty the service was at the DMV to the most brilliant insight they gleaned from a brainstorming session at work.
Jim Long, who goes by the nickname NewMediaJim on Twitter, is a bit of a Web celebrity. Quick data point: Of the thousands and thousands and thousands of people who use Twitter, Jim is the 48th most popular, as of this writing. In addition to being a nice guy (I’ve only met him once, over dinner — that’s me in the background, starring as the creepy lurker), he has a fascinating job.
He’s a cameraman for NBC News, working out of the D.C. bureau. Jim usually follows the president around, but this morning, Jim’s updates on Twitter provide a intriguing bit of insight into how the TV news business works — or at least, how it works today as it waits for breaking political news like a 6-year-old waits for Christmas morning. I’ll run down the highlights in chronological order.
First, Jim simply says:
That was roughly 7 p.m. on Wednesday, if my math is correct. Next, at about the same time:
About an hour ago (roughly 7 a.m. Thursday, Central Time):
Then, the following notes all poured out over the subsequent 45 minutes or so (when he writes “@someone,” he’s replying to someone else’s Twitter message):
About 99 percent of the population would find this totally worthless and utter waste of the electricity I consumed while writing this post. But you, dear Rowdy Reader, are in the top 1 percent — a group I hope shares my fascination and near disbelief at this news-gathering strategy.
“We have reason to believe Obama will announce his VP choice Friday. We know it’s one of 3-6 people, so let’s stakeout. Get Jim over to Biden’s house!”
“So we can be the first to get Biden on tape saying the trite, faux-surprised ‘thanks and honored’ mini-speech he’s bound to deliver in his driveway.”
“Yes. And where are we with that Paris Hilton story?! Can you believe she has a new fragrance?”
That’s my imagined conversation between a producer and his lackey. It must be close to accurate, no?
I love MSNBC, the outlet for much of NBC News’ work. But raise your digital hand if you really think anyone will hold the network in higher regard if they get “the goods” the hope for from this driveway stake-out?