After four decades of writing in at least paragraph form, I finally joined, if that is the right word, Twitter yesterday. Presto: I already have over 190 followers, which makes Jesus, with 12, look like a piker. As Marvin Gaye sang, "How tweet it is to be loved by you." But it's the news scoop aspect that impresses me so far.
It was about time I signed on. I came across an online article just yesterday that stated, "Twitter has jumped the shark." It was dated March 25, 2007. Perhaps it is still in mid-air two years later.
So what happened yesterday?
For one thing, I discovered that another Huff Post blogger, who happens to work in my building in NYC, was recommending to everyone a Vietnamese sandwich shop in the nabe -- and I quickly replied that we ought to meet there for lunch some day.
At least three former online employees here at E&P, and a well-known writer who worked for me at a magazine 25 years ago, found me and are now true (if not necessarily rabid) followers. Also, three former interns tackled me. A former Hollywood producer I interviewed nearly 30 years ago did, too. A guy from The New York Times. Plenty of strangers. And so on.
Plus a bonus: I found out about the Christopher Walken page, which you simply must visit. L.V. Beethoven, too. And that guy Jesus now has more than 2,000 followers.
Why did I do it now? For one thing, I wanted to test it as a tool for E&P before committing the rest of the staff to it, singly or in a group twit. And I am amazed with the practical results so far. I have found numerous news tips on Twitter updates. Yesterday was a horrific day in the newspaper biz, with far-reaching furloughs and others cuts announced, and some of the twits I am following had the news first.
I then took those leads, contacted staffers to do full stories, tweeted quickly to "break" the news for E&P fans, then put up on our site the staff articles that in some cases were still scoops. All because of Twitter.
Later, at night, I found a few more quirky things that I linked at our blog. Meanwhile, I've already posted a couple of dozen tweets on subjects ranging from media and politics to film and music.
I've generally been dismissive of Twitter as a further dumbing down of our discourse and journalism but now I see, at least from the first day, the useful side - if you are in the news business. Frankly, I still don't want to know what you had for lunch. Unless you work in my building and want to do Vietnamese.