First, let me begin by saying that, outside the confines of this blog, I am also known by the Twitter handle @tmhester.
Yesterday (12/27) I spoke with my sister, Barbara, on the phone. She lives in Newark, NJ where we all grew up and I live in Northern Virginia. We had seen each other at Christmas before my wife and I decided to take our kids and head home early to avoid the impending blizzard. Fortunately for us we managed to get home before a single flake fell. In all actuality we received almost no snow whatsoever here. Back in Newark, however, about two feet of the white stuff blanketed the Brick City. When Barbara and I talked she lamented two things. 1) Her husband had forgotten to pick up diapers for their son and she would soon be out. 2) Her street had not been plowed even once. We both thought this odd since in the past the plows were visible before snow was even forecast. What happened next has been so distorted by media outlets that I must relate the actual events as they happened.
I told my sister that I would tweet Cory Booker, Mayor of Newark. Cory has an enormous presence on Twitter and as a former Newarker who likes to stay connected to his hometown I am but one of his many followers. What I know about Hizzoner is that he is nothing if not a savvy user of social media. Good for him! This is how people communicate in the 21st century. I tweeted the following line: “@CoryBooker Highland Ave b/w XXX and XXX not touched yet. My sis can’t get out to get diapers.” I included the line about the diapers not because I ever thought he would personally do anything about the situation so much as for him to be aware that the streets hadn’t been plowed. Cory’s response? “What is her address and phone #. I may be able to bring the diapers. She should stay in.” Within about half an hour the mayor was at my sister’s door with diapers.
Amazed? So were we. Truthfully, I have had my differences with Cory. His decision recently to lay off a large number of the city’s police force does not sit well with me nor the increase in property taxes. In fact, the fact that my sister’s street still did not see a plow until almost midnight last night is a bit troubling. That being said, on a human level the mayor did good here. He arrived promptly and with a smile. I had asked my sister to get a picture of him for me. She complied. So we’re clear, the mayor did NOT bring a camera with him. He did NOT have an entourage. He actually begged off staying for more than a moment as he had to “get back out there” and continue making the rounds of New Jersey’s largest city. As many of us would do in that situation my sister had my niece snap a picture on her phone. She also managed to get some better shots with an actual camera. I posted the first picture to Twitter and thought the whole thing was done.
Imagine my surprise then when, flipping the channels last night, I saw the entire thing played out on Fox News Channel’s On the Record. Pretty neat, right? Well, the details were largely correct. They referenced me as a Newark resident (which I am not) but that’s fine. I used to be. But imagine my continued surprise upon seeing this story today on the online versions of USA Today, ABC News, the Village Voice, Mediaite, the Dallas Morning News, New York Convergence, Democratic Underground, the New York Times, EZdiapering.com, Gossip Cop, and my favorite blackenterprise.com. The details in these re-writes are so varied as to take what was a simple Twitter exchange and blow them into the greatest package delivery since the first Iditarod was run. In one case Mayor Booker was written as having delivered diapers to his own snow-bound mother! Interesting. Still, in most of these accounts the basic framework was in place.
I am most thankful to the mayor for his quick response as is my sister. The question still remains as to why the plows weren’t out and plowing; but I suppose we can address that later. The best part of this story is the legs it developed and the rapidity with which it spread. One site gave Cory props for having an infinitely better media machine than, say, Mayor Bloomberg in New York. To my reckoning, Cory’s got a better media presence than most “celebrities” today. I won’t deny him the indulgence, either because at the end of the day I don’t know of too many mayors of large cities who personally respond to constituents like this.
So is governing by tweet the way of the future? I guess we would have known had I tweeted a request from another sister. She heard about the diapers and instructed me to send the following message to the mayor: “@corybooker XXXXX St. still not plowed. sis almost out of smokes. bout to get real ugly. help!”
PS: My sister wants it known that she is not indigent just too stupid to remember diapers at the store. LOL.