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Anchors Twittering Their Lives Away

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By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, February 23, 2009; 9:59 AM

The sun was not yet up when David Gregory checked in with his followers:

"646 am. Just got to NBC. Almost showtime. Betsy just sent me Frank Rich piece. Actually read during night. Should we include?"

Less than two hours later, the "Meet the Press" host offered an update: "Rehearsal done. Guests should arrive anytime now. This is a good time for me to go thru my q's one last time. Maybe a bagel b4 air."

Gregory was providing real-time chatter on Twitter, the social networking site built around terse messages, which is becoming something of a hangout for high-profile anchors.

"Here's a chance through Twitter, all these social networks, to break the glass in front of the tube," says "Nightline" co-anchor Terry Moran. "It gives you a chance to offer more about your life as a reporter, a person living in Washington." Being on Twitter counters "the whole notion that newscasters speak from Olympus," and yet "it leaves you open to some rich contempt and mockery. You don't want to overshare."

Twitter, which began in 2006, has 6 million users, a fivefold increase since last summer. The 140-character limit on each message initially seems silly but forces a witty sort of brevity that seems well matched to today's sound-bite culture. While dwarfed by the likes of Facebook, which has become so mainstream it can hardly be viewed as edgy, the bare-bones Twitter has been generating considerable buzz lately.

In an age when people expect behind-the-scenes dish, the site enables television types to explain what they're doing -- and flatter their fans by soliciting their opinions.

Moran did that two weeks ago, providing a steady flow of tweets, as they're called, on the day that he interviewed President Obama. He asked his followers what questions he should pose to the president -- and some of the suggestions, he says, were pretty good.

"Focus on the economy," one person wrote. "Don't wander off like clowns at the news conference, talking about Iran, Afghanistan."

Moran's updates had a you-are-there quality:

7:18 a.m.: "Arrived at Andrews. Security smooth and courteous. Wondering if $1.5 trillion is enough to save the banks."

8:46 a.m.: "On board Air Force One. Pancakes, bacon and eggs on the menu. Twix and snickers for snacks."


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