My preparation is nearly complete: I have been building up strength in my index finger by moving it back and forth in a horizontal motion countless times daily.
I utter "hashtag" aloud whenever possible. When my children ask who I'm talking to, I put the aforementioned finger to my lips, silencing them while I continue my regimen.
Finally, I stand in front of a mirror, practicing various expressions of shock, surprise, anger, incredulousness and my best, "I can't believe somebody tweeted that" look.
Now all that's left to do is finish my resume, send it to television outlets nationwide and announce that, yes, I'm ready to become a professional tweet reader.
Welcome to the latest vocation under the broadcast media talent umbrella -- peering at a laptop screen and starring in a segment called "What Do YOU think?" or something similar. Local news anchors, after reporting that residents in their viewing areas are outraged by property tax increases, often turn to their "social media correspondents" who announce that, according to Twitter, the #property #tax #increase indeed has viewers #outraged. And here's a tweet from @teapartydude745 to prove it!
Last December The Today Show ensconced Carson Daly -- who vies with Ryan Seacrest for the title of "TV guy with most jobs" -- in the "Orange Room," a slice of the NBC set devoted exclusively to monitoring the Twittersphere. As Orange Room emperor, Daly presides over a large map that could easily do double duty for Al Roker's weather segments or CNN "Where's That Plane?" updates. But instead of pointing at raincloud, snow flurry, tornado or black box clip art, Daly's Twitter-trained fingers swipe different geographical areas, revealing actual tweets from viewers in those areas. Daly then reads those tweets verbatim, raises one or more eyebrows depending on the tweet's tone and then presumably collapses into a chair and removes his makeup, exhausted by his 90 seconds of work.
Eager to jump on the tweet-reading bandwagon, The Today Show's chief rival Good Morning America recently signed ESPN host Tony Reali to man a new corner of its studio, called "The Social Square." No word on what color the studio will be but Reali's duties are clear: Cover social media. In other words, read tweets. Time permitting, Reali may enter uncharted territory by reading Facebook posts as well.
While some media outlets embrace viewer and reader interaction, others have grown weary with the "join the conversation" vehicle. The Chicago Sun-Times recently pulled the plug on subscriber comments because, according to managing editor Craig Newman, they "too often turn into a morass of negativity, racism, hate speech and general trollish behaviors that detract from the content."
Hopefully the Sun-Times boss eliminated the comments section before readers could prove his point by hatefully typing, "@#$%^ Craig Newman!"
Personally, I've always had a love-hate relationship with Twitter. But what keeps me attached to the social media juggernaut is its ease of use and outlet for creativity. It's amazing how a 140-word post can be hilarious, philosophical, insightful or, on rare occasions, a combination of all three. Follow @SteveMartinToGo for proof.
But I'm perfectly capable of searching for, and then reading those tweets all by my lonesome. I don't need them spoon fed to me by a spray tanned TV personality. Perhaps if I were functionally illiterate I'd feel differently and would relish somebody like Daly or Reali with their high-tech maps, their tailored suits and their ability to realize that yes, President Obama is trending today!
Then again, if I were functionally illiterate I wouldn't be watching a morning news show like The Today Show or Good Morning America.
I'd be watching Duck Dynasty. And live tweeting every episode.