Lyons: Kicked out of a club he resisted joining

Like many fields, the practice of journalism forces one to catch up on technological advances quickly. Curmudgeons and dinosaurs get left in the tar pits.

Social media initially irritated me, although I eventually was dragged along – first to Facebook several years ago. It was only months ago that I finally leaped off the Twitter ledge.

It’s not the medium that bothered me. This is the information business – the more means of communication the better. It was the volume of information a newspaper editor is already required to process in a given day. Fewer than six browser windows open and a smartphone more than 3 feet away means I’m doing it wrong.

At any moment, we’re monitoring The Associated Press feed, responding to fires and police activities, speaking with readers and sources, checking other news sites, updating our own website, emailing, texting, tweeting and posting to Facebook. Attention deficit disorder isn’t an affliction in this business; it’s a requirement.

So while I tweeted Northwest Herald links to stories, I held out for as long as I could before creating my own Twitter account. I finally caved in and have mostly enjoyed the experience.

Twitter is a great tool for breaking news and basic communication. Unlike Facebook, which I reserve for friends and family, most of the people I follow on Twitter are other journalists, advocacy groups, public officials, colleagues, friends or just random people in our coverage area who tolerate my rather dark sense of humor.

I particularly enjoyed following fans and writers during the Blackhawks’ championship run and was fascinated by the speed of information in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings.

The Twitterverse was made for journalism nerds – a club to which I thought I belonged until Tuesday brought the unthinkable. When I went to check Twitter for a news item, I learned that Twitter had suspended my account for unstated reasons.

Suspended. In the penalty box, although I felt no shame. If you looked for me on Twitter, despite a few hundred followers and about 1,000 tweets, I no longer existed.

My digital footprint was obliterated. My Twitter profile trapped in the Phantom Zone and presumed to be flinging through cyberspace like the villains in “Superman 2.”

I’d admittedly never read the Twitter rules, but on Tuesday I read them all. For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out any rule I’d violated. Yet there I remained. Twitterless.

Twitter obviously didn’t realize who they’d suspended. This wasn’t just about me. There are literally dozens of followers depending on my inane observations and tepidly witty remarks on the news of the day. How can they be expected to sort through the headlines without them?

Didn’t the people at Twitter realize that I had snarky things to say about Justin Bieber touching the Stanley Cup while standing on the Indian head logo Tuesday night? Who could possibly fill that Internet void in my absence? Surely they can’t expect such pearls to be slumming it on Facebook.

As I wrote this column, I finally got a response from Twitter that my account was mistakenly lumped in with some spam accounts they were exterminating. Delusions that my tweets were important enough to censor were dashed.

But for nearly 24 hours, like Captain Ahab brandishing a harpoon at the Fail Whale, I remained in Twitter exile.

• Kevin Lyons is news editor of the Northwest Herald. Reach him at 815-526-4505 or email him at kelyons@shawmedia.com. You can usually follow him on Twitter at @KevinLyonsNWH when he’s not outlawed.

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