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Friday, July 29, 2011

New York Times reporter prompts White House media staff on Twitter

Does she have a vision problem? Can’t she distinguish ‘hashtags’ in a tweet? She says she did it to help herself; maybe a pair of glasses would help!

Are you guys using specific hashtag?”

By Neil Munro

Minutes after President Obama urged Americans this morning to tweet their support for a Democratic debt-ceiling bill, a New York Times reporter prompted the White House to organize the effort with a special Twitter hashtag.

Hashtags use the “#” symbol to mark keywords or topics on Twitter. They often help drive messages by linking similar messages together in a common theme.

At 10:55 a.m. the Times’s Jennifer Preston suggested that administration officials might create a hashtag, so tweeting Democrats could jointly target Republicans who are now trying to pass their own debt ceiling plan.

Preston tweeted to a White House rep, saying “@macon44 Hi there. I heard the President ask the people to tweet re: debt ceiling. Are you guys using specific hashtag?”

A minute later, she tweeted a followup to White House staffer Jesse Lee, saying, “Hi Jesse, what’s the hashtag that you guys are urging people to use in their tweets to Congress re: debtceiling.” Lee is the White House’s s director of progressive media & online response. (RELATED: New WH talking point: Boehner is the Grinch, and he’ll steal your Christmas)

Eight minutes later, at 11:04, the White House’s press shop announced a new hashtag for Democrats to use when targeting GOP members of Congress: “@NYT_JenPreston People responding to POTUS shld use #compromise. As he said, it is ‘time for #compromise on behalf of the American people.’”

At 11:31, The Washington Post reported out the new hashtag, and at 12.32, staffers at the White House’s Office of Management and Budget re-tweeted the same message. “RT @postpolitics: The @whitehouse new media team has said people responding to the President on Twitter should use #compromise.”

Preston, whose own tweet ID is @NYT_JenPreston, covers social media in politics and government. Reached by TheDC for comment, she insisted that she wasn’t trying to aid the White House in any way.

“I use Twitter all the time as a reporting tool,” Preston said. “I’m a social media reporter. A lot of reporters use email. I use Twitter. I heard that the president of the United States had urged people to tweet — I didn’t watch the address — But I wanted to set up an alert on Tweetdeck so I could track things.”

“I wasn’t doing it to help the White House,” she added. “I was doing it to help myself.”

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