Twitter


Happy Thanksgiving, everybody! It’s been several months since I last posted here at The Bread Line, but this morning I felt the urge to write here again.

While this blog has been dormant (other than the ever-changing Twitter feed on the right side of the website), my other blog, The Midwest League Traveler, has been going strong. That where I chronicled my summer journey to the 16 Midwest League (Class A minor-league baseball) ballparks and continue to write about baseball-related topics. I’m in the process of writing a book about the ballparks and my experiences visiting them. My plan is to publish the book by the start of the next baseball season, and most nights I’m staying up late to work on it. If you haven’t done so already, I hope you will check out my work at The Midwest League Traveler and if you use Twitter, follow me at @MWLtraveler in addition to @thebreadline.

That brings me to what I’m thankful for this year. In addition to the usual stuff — you know what kind of stuff I mean — I am thankful for the opportunity to be pursuing my dream of writing a book and, in doing so, being able to combine my loves of baseball, road trips and writing. I’m thankful for all the support I’ve gotten from family, friends and even some strangers (people I hear from through the blog or Twitter, or whom I met at ballparks this year), but I’m especially thankful for the unwavering support of my wife, without whom my book project wouldn’t be happening.

Thanks for checking in at The Bread Line. While I rarely post here anymore because of my commitment to finishing my book and pushing it through my other blog and social media, I am glad you stopped here and read this.

Now it’s time to enjoy a turkey day cup of coffee. Have a happy and safe holiday, everyone.

My apologies to readers of The Bread Line who haven’t had any new blog posts to read for several weeks. I was on vacation for 12 days (road trip to Atlanta and Florida) and since then I’ve been busy working on my summer project: visiting all 16 Midwest League ballparks and writing about the experience.

I’m still in the beginning stages of the adventure, having gone only to a couple Peoria Chiefs games so far. I’ve got a schedule in place for when I’ll visit the other 15 Midwest League ballparks (and likely return to Peoria’s park, too, since that’s the closest one to me). I set up a second Twitter account from which I’ll tweet about my Midwest League odyssey: @MWLtraveler. I’m also building a blog at which I’ll chronicle my ballpark visits at www.MWLtraveler.com. It’s still a work in progress right now, so please excuse the metaphorical dust as construction continues, but bookmark it and check back regularly if you want to follow along there, too.

That’s it for now here at The Bread Line. I’ll still be posting here occasionally, but I’ll be posting at The Midwest League Traveler blog a lot more this summer. I hope you’ll like what you read there, and as always, feel free to give me feedback about my writing and the project in general.

President Obama has decided not to release photographs of a dead Osama bin Laden. Here are his comments about the subject, told to “60 Minutes” correspondent Steve Kroft:

“The risks of release outweigh the benefits,” Obama said. “Conspiracy theorists around the world will just claim the photos are doctored anyway, and there is a real risk that releasing the photos will only serve to inflame public opinion in the Middle East.

“Imagine how the American people would react if al-Qaida killed one of our troops or military leaders, and put photos of the body on the Internet,” he continued. “Osama bin Laden is not a trophy — he is dead and let’s now focus on continuing the fight until al-Qaida has been eliminated.”

I completely agree with Obama’s reasoning. Here’s what I tweeted about his decision before I read his comments:

“I think that’s the right decision. No need to risk upsetting the wrong people (potential terrorists) just to satisfy conspiracy theorists.”

and

“Besides, would conspiracy theorists really be silenced if photo released? They probably would claim it’s doctored.”

Obama’s comments about not releasing post-mortem images of bin Laden will air today on “CBS Evening News.” The full interview will air Sunday on “60 Minutes.”

Oh, what a night! Osama bin Laden is dead!

I’m not going to spend a lot of time typing this post because, frankly, I want to concentrate on watching news coverage of the al-Qaida leader’s death. But I’d like to point out that the news broke and spread quickly on Twitter, before the television anchors told us (particularly CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, who metaphorically seemed to be the last person to arrive at the party). Yesterday I wrote about the news value of Twitter and its varied acceptance level by print reporters (you can read that post by clicking here), and the way so many people learned about bin Laden’s death is a perfect example of why all reporters should be on board with the use of social media.

As I tweeted earlier tonight, “I hope all the print journalists who don’t buy into the news value of Twitter are paying attention to how the bin Laden news broke/spread.”

Finally, I’ll end this post with the sentence I tweeted immediately after President Obama finished his speech tonight: “If I could type the sound of America clapping, I would.”

It’s my observation that there are three types of newspaper reporters when it comes to Internet use beyond searching for information: those who “get” it and totally embrace its use as a way to report news; those who don’t understand the Internet’s value as a media source and, as a result, resist its use as much as possible; and those who fall somewhere in the middle (they essentially understand or accept the value of online media methods but don’t use them quite right).

The first type is self-explanatory. If you understand the power of online reporting and the use of social media to further the reach of a reporter’s words, you know a reporter who “gets” it when you see his or her work.

The second type is still too common. A great example of this type can be found locally. There are two smaller daily newspapers that primarily cover La Salle County — The Times and the NewsTribune — and they both have reporters who “get” it and reporters who resist having to do anything beyond writing and occasionally shooting a photo for the print product. Reporters at both newspapers obviously were directed to create and use Twitter accounts, and as best I can tell, all the NewsTribune reporters embrace this to varying degrees, but there are still some Times reporters who don’t use Twitter at all — one reporter even locked his account so you can’t follow him unless he approves you doing so! They obviously don’t understand the value of reaching out to a wider audience through such newfangled means.

An example of the third type works for the Chicago Sun-Times. Lynn Sweet, a columnist and Washington bureau chief for the newspaper, uses Twitter and blogs, but she doesn’t do it quite right. Earlier today, she tweeted a reminder that the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner is tonight, and that people can follow her at @lynnsweet for notes and photos from it. That is a good use of Twitter. But when I clicked on the link she included in her tweet, I found her accompanying blog post, which began as follows:

WASHINGTON–The White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner is tonight, with Saturday Night Live headwriter and comic Seth Meyers the headliner. Meyers–I locked eyes with him for a mini-moment at the New Yorker party Friday night–speaks after President Obama, always a hard act to follow.

That is an example of Sweet trying too hard to impress and not quite “getting” it, which she tends to do on her blog. Believe me, nobody cares that Lynn Sweet locked eyes with Seth Meyers for “a mini-moment.” Another example of her trying too hard on her blog is the many instances of her writing “as I reported earlier” or a similar phrase. Newspapers have a long tradition of patting themselves on the back for reporting something first — and I have no problem with that — but when it’s done often by the same reporter in the first person, the writer can come across less favorably.

With that said, at least Sweet is using social media, and she gets credit for that. Too many reporters still resist using social media, and that’s a real problem in the journalism industry.

As I noted in a post yesterday, today is the 5th anniversary of when then-Gov. Mitt Romney signed a universal healthcare bill into law for Massachusetts. But that’s not the only — or even the most important — anniversary of significance to be marked today.

Of course, the most significant is the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War. I began to commemorate the day this morning by dusting off my Guns N’ Roses Use Your Illusion II CD and playing it, beginning with the first track, “Civil War.” Then my wife and I hiked at Starved Rock State Park, where there weren’t many people today, giving us the opportunity to truly appreciate the solitude of nature and, at one point, reflect on how far we’ve come as a society since the Civil War — and even since the 100th anniversary 50 years ago.

You don’t need me to explain all that, but I do wish to take this time to mention a few Civil War-related books I’ve read or that are on my to-read list: Jay Winik’s “April 1865: The Month That Saved America” (about the final days of the Civil War and its immediate aftermath); James L. Swanson’s “Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer” and “Bloody Crimes: The Chase for Jefferson Davis and the Death Pageant for Lincoln’s Corpse”; David O. Stewart’s “Impeached: The Trial of President Andrew Johnson and the Fight for Lincoln’s Legacy”; Doris Kearns Goodwin’s “Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln”; and George B. Kirsch’s “Baseball in Blue and Gray: The National Pastime During the Civil War.”

If anyone has suggestions to add to my reading list, I’d love to hear them. Also, if you have any Civil War sites you recommend I visit between northern Illinois and Atlanta, Ga., during a road trip planned for later this year, I’d love to hear those, too.

* * *

Today is also the 50th anniversary of the first manned space flight (by Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin) and the 30th anniversary of the American space shuttle program’s first flight. NASA celebrated by not giving one of the retiring space shuttles to Chicago’s Adler Planetarium — but at least the planetarium will get the flight simulator used by astronauts during their space training.

The four space shuttles were assigned to the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum near Washington, D.C.; the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex near Orlando, Fla.; the California Science Center in Los Angeles; and the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in New York.

I’ll also be visiting the Kennedy Space Center during my aforementioned road trip planned for later this year. Suggested stops in the TOM (Tampa-Orlando-Miami) triangle are welcome, too. (Baseball games and Everglades National Park are already on the agenda.)

* * *

Finally, today is the 1-year anniversary of when the Chicago Cubs front office started its official Twitter feed, @CubsInsider. This isn’t very notable, except to illustrate a point.

Lately I’ve noticed a few people in my Twitter timeline mention that they’ve been on Twitter for a year now. I’m glad they’ve been on Twitter that long, but I’m not sure why they think the anniversary is a big deal. I’ve used Twitter since early 2009 — proudly ahead of the curve with this form of social media — but I don’t know what day I tweeted for the first time. Nevertheless, if you’re on Twitter and don’t already follow me, I hope you will change that! I’m @thebreadline.

From the Chicago Tribune:

Dan Sinker, a journalism teacher at Columbia College, says he was behind the fictitious Twitter account “@MayorEmanuel,” the foul-mouthed doppelganger to the real candidate and mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel.

The Atlantic released the story today, and Sinker confirmed it on his blog and through a Twitter message exchange with the Chicago Tribune.

Sinker’s tweeting as a satirical version of Emanuel was epic.  You can read the tweets, in chronologically backward order, here.

You can read the Atlantic story here. It’s a good read, despite the author’s obvious opinion that Sinker is some kind of modern-day demigod. Don’t get me wrong — I followed @MayorEmanuel and enjoyed his tweets — but the only thing missing from the Atlantic article is the sound of trumpets blowing when you click on the story link.

Sinker probably will be on all the Chicago newscasts tonight, but his first full broadcast interview reportedly will be on WBEZ’s “Eight Forty-Eight” show tomorrow. In the meantime, I hope Sinker takes the advice of the Chicago Reader, which tweeted, “Hopefully @dansinker will get to work on a fake Charlie Sheen Twitterfeed.”

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