James McPherson's Media & Politics Blog

Observations of a patriotic progressive historian, media critic & former journalist

  • By the author of The Conservative Resurgence and the Press: The Media’s Role in the Rise of the Right and of Journalism at the End of the American Century, 1965-Present. A former journalist with a Ph.D. in journalism, history and political science, McPherson is a past president of the American Journalism Historians Association and a board member for the Northwest Alliance for Responsible Media.

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Archive for February 12th, 2009

Twitter-iffic: An awards show where character counts–or at least where characters are counted

Posted by James McPherson on February 12, 2009

A question for Twitterers: Can a guy who wins a “Shorty” adequately explain in fewer than 140 characters what he won, and why?

CNN reports that Twitter now has its own Oscar-style awards program. The Shorty Awards were presented in 26 categories for people who revel in writing short. Like the best “tweets,” at least the program had a sense of humor–one of the “special guests” (albeit via video) was Shaquille O’Neal. One obvious omission: Despite recent legal problems, it seems to me that the event was made to be hosted by Verne Troyer.

As I’m noted before, I’m not a Twitterer –though as a former journalist (and someone who now grades student writing) I do recognize that shorter can be better. Mark Twain is famously quoted as saying, “I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.” Abraham Lincoln’s most famous speech had fewer than 260 words (words, not characters–and Happy Birthday, Abe).

As further evidence of how difficult it might be for someone to be truely original and creative while specializing in Tweets, a lists of the finalists reveals at least four who base their characters on the television show “Mad Men.” One winner, @PeggyOlson, actually prompted controversy and allegations  of cheating.

Oh, and about the question I posed as the first sentence of this post (a sentence intentionally kept to fewer than 140 characters): I figure the winner will have to explain his award at least that quickly to avoid being interrupted by laughter. Or at least some tittering.

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