THE BLOG
06/15/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Tweet, Tweet: Confessions of a twittering Newbie

Can the Latest Technology Be Useful for an Aging News Dissector?

I am now following and being followed -- still not sure what that means -- but I am told it's a good start. I am on Twitter, tweeting to the beat.

I realize I am really a retrograde product of another time, when my ultimate goal in journalism was creating substantive investigative reports or long form documentaries. That is increasingly passé. What is now valued, I am told, is short bursts of information, speedy technology that reaches the world, or your part of it. It's that old KISS Axiom -- keep it short and sweet, or simple and stupid.

Everyone is adapting to and using the technology -- some as a messaging service, some as a networking tool, some to call projects or films or news to public attention and some just as a goof. I am a macro blogger trying to go micro. What does it mean?

Of course, Wikipedia has an entry:

Twitter is a free social networking and micro-blogging service that enables its users to send and read other users' updates known as tweets. Tweets are text-based posts of up to 140 characters in length which are displayed on the user's profile page and delivered to other users who have subscribed to them (known as followers). Senders can restrict delivery to those in their circle of friends or, by default, allow anybody to access them. Users can send and receive tweets via the Twitter website, Short Message Service (SMS) or external applications. The service is free to use over the Internet, but using SMS may incur phone service provider fees. Since its creation in 2006 by Jack Dorsey, Twitter has gained extensive notability and popularity worldwide.

Twitter explains its reason for being this way: "Twitter is a service for friends, family, and co-workers to communicate and stay connected through the exchange of quick, frequent answers to one simple question: What are you doing?"

What am I doing?

I am writing about Twitter and discovering that many journalists are adapting to it. There's a web site called Muck Rack to connect reporters who usually compete with each other.

It's appeal?

"What if you could get tomorrow's newspaper today?"

Now you sorta can, by tracking the short messages on Twitter written by the journalists who do the muckraking for major media outlets.

Muck Rack makes it easy to follow one line, real time reporting.

They are not alone. There are designers, celebrities, musicians, venture capitalists, and even pets on Twitter.

To tell the truth, it's fast and fun but I wonder how we can all handle the incredible overload of information.

I created a DissectorEvents page, posting info on some of the things I am doing, including news of a broadcast this Sunday, May 17th of my film, Barack Obama: People's President , airing at 6-7 PM. There was no chance of doing more than throwing the time and the title out there.

Just for the heck of it, I clicked "follow" to plug into the many outposts the technically savvy Obama social marketing heads use. And soon enough, I was told I had a message from Barack Obama.

Wow! Here's a film I know he might be interested in, but a false alarm. No one in the Obama camp wants to talk to me, certainly not the man who is busy with the Presidential cha-cha.

But, alas, they want to talk at me, to tell me their plans for 2012. I am on the list, not being listened to. In fact, suddenly I have Lesbian collectives and FOX stations following me, little or not so little ole me.

Tweet me up Scotty.

The buzz is buzzing and the hype is hyping. ABC News is launching a twitter show. A senator has a letter in the New York Times about how wonderful it is.

Of course, critics are following the phenomenon, some like Liz Lawley is heartened by the wonder of it all:

The big "P" word in technology these days is "participatory." But I'm increasingly convinced that a more important "P" word is "presence." In a world where we're seldom able to spend significant amounts of time with the people we care about (due not only to geographic dispersion but also the realities of daily work and school commitments), having a mobile, lightweight method for both keeping people updated on what you're doing and staying aware of what others are doing is powerful.

Some feel that to even criticize the twitters as twits (or worse) is to show an old discredited way of thinking.

A writer in Fort Collins, Colorado has no sympathy for some, like me, who sometimes feel dinosaurish in trying to keep up. He writes of "an admitted 'dinosaur' in the age of nanotechnology -- her views on the future of news and reporting seem about as inflexible as a fossilized stegosaurus. To survive as a business in the current economic paradigm -- adaptability, resilience and flexibility -- are not only recommended, they are necessary.

Yes, indeed.

Some question its reliability and its architecture, but so many are adopting it.

In Germany, literary critics are dissecting various posts. As a site called, "AllHealthCare.com," faults posts they read on swine flu: "Amid this growing global crisis, blog-blurb site Twitter has come under fire for delivering misinformation. The site has become inundated with doomsday predictions and exaggerated figures that are confusing many in the public." Film critics fear the brief bursts of putdownish twittering can destroy a new movie's prospects.

There are, depending on which post you go to, stages of Twitter acceptance, according to the Influential Marketing blog.

I started at stage numero uno.

  1. Denial. It sounds stupid.
  2. Presence. I don't get it, but because others are on it, so I will be too.
  3. Dumping. I only use it to plug my latest ...
  4. Conversing. I can use it for conversations that get to the point.
  5. Microblogging. I use it to publish useful information and converse.

With so many web sites out there, I can see Twitter's appeal. Progressives can certainly use it for action alerts and organizing. I am just a newbie wondering where to turn next.

I was in radio until the conglomerates bought us out and some of us bought in. All the newspapers and many of the magazines I used to write for are long gone. I worked in TV until I couldn't take it anymore.

I've written the NewsDissector blog for ten years, often weighing in at 3000-6000 words a day. I jumped onto Facebook and have all sorts of people I don't know -- and some I do -- wanting to "friend me."

It's hard to keep up.

I jump between two email accounts that are filled with "breaking news" that breaks my concentration.

At home, I have a remote control that has me clicking through hundreds of unwatchable channels. I am up to the minute with more input than I can process. But just as I was contemplating technicide, along came Twitter.

I have been born again.

To use a Bushism, "bring it on." That's only 7 words and 26 characters and 32 characters with spaces.

Perfect.

- News Dissector Danny Schechter is blogger-in chief for Mediachannel.org. His latest film in the making is PLUNDER (http://www.newsdissector.com/plunder)
Comments to Danny@mediachannel.org