New York Times media wunderkind Brian Stelter spent the weekend in Seattle on a P.R. jaunt for Andrew Rossi’s New York Times documentary Page One. Times obsessives already knew that, of course, since Mr. Stelter is one of the most prolific tweeters on the staff. ”I treat it like my notebook,” he said. “I guess when I tweet about karaoke or post pictures of sunsets, I do a gut-check and ask myself if it’s appropriate.”
Mr. Stelter’s employers appear ready to follow his lead. Last week, The Times ditched the paper’s automated Twitter feed in favor of a pair of humans for a weeklong trial, assigning social media editors Lexi Mainland and Liz Heron to helm the official account. While their priority was to alert readers to breaking news, they too drew back the curtain, tweeting photographs from inside the West 41st Street building, including an image of shoes from a T magazine photo shoot–”Fashion is a part of the reporting world,” Ms. Mainland said–and a photo of the newsroom.”
The world clocks are popular for people touring the building,” she explained. “It’s another thing we love to send out. It’s fun. It’s all about bringing the Times sensibility. We’re trying to be Timesian–but not in a stuffy way, not in this space.” Another aspect of the job involves educating recalcitrant colleagues about the wonders of social media, “both as a reporting tool and as an engaging-readers tool,” Ms. Mainland told Off the Record. “We like to engage with reporters who might be skeptical.”
Among those skeptics is executive editor Bill Keller, who used his Times Magazine column last week to criticize Twitter’s effects on good old-fashioned conversation, prompting a public online debate with his own reporter, Nick Bilton, who writes the Bits blog. According to Ms. Mainland, however, the boss is coming around. ”It’s been a big week for Bill on Twitter,” Ms. Mainland said excitedly. “He tweeted four or five times. That’s like a quarter of his total tweets.”
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