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The Year In Tweets


I'm Michel Martin, and this is TELL ME MORE, from NPR News. Coming up, are you invited to any parties for Kwanzaa, which is going on now? If the answer is yes, you're not alone. If the answer is no, you're not alone, either. We'll ask just how widely observed is this inspired-by-Africa, made-in-America celebration.

But first, the familiar ping of a new tweet. Many of you might have heard that this year's top tweet was a photo of President Obama embracing the first lady with the words: four more years. The Obama campaign tweet became the most popular tweet in history. We decided we wanted to take a look at some of the other Twitter trends that got the attention of the twitterati this year. Joining us now are two avid Tweeters: Keli Goff is a political correspondent for TheRoot.com. That is an online publication that focuses on news from diverse African-American perspectives. Also with us, Viviana Hurtado, she's blogger-in-chief of the website The Wise Latina Club. Welcome back to you both. Thank you for joining us.

KELI GOFF: Great to be back.

VIVIANA HURTADO: Tweet, tweet, Michel. Hi.

MARTIN: Before we get started, I just wanted to ask each of you, you both have roots in traditional communication forms; Keli, you authored a well-respected book about politics, Viviana, you hold a doctorate and you were a network correspondent. When you first got involved with Twitter, did you envision it as being as central to your professional lives as it as become, and why do you think that is? Viviana, why don't you start?

HURTADO: I know that Twitter was a pain when I signed up. I think Twitter was one of those things where I ended up copying and pasting my Facebook messages. And I've ended up really embracing Twitter because it is this incredible forum to magnify your voice. And on Twitter, on social media in general, but Twitter in particular, Latinos are just booming.

We have embraced social media, Twitter in particular, and we're having discussions, we're talking amongst ourselves, we're hearing our perspectives where we don't oftentimes hear them or see them in other contexts.

MARTIN: Keli, what about you?

GOFF: I was dragged kicking and screaming to Twitter, and that's putting it mildly. And of course, now I'm thrilled to be there. And I will say that what finally kind of convinced me of its relevance is that a couple of major stories broke - if you remember a couple years ago - on Twitter. I can't remember the exact tweet, but if you remember correctly, Newt Gingrich said something during the Sonia Sotomayor confirmation hearings that was really controversial, and it really sparked that whole great conversation about wise Latinas, diversity, what those of us who are people of color, how we see the world and live the world differently from someone who is part of the predominant, hegemonic culture. That did it.

And also if you remember, Sarah Palin went through a bit of a news blackout where she wasn't really talking to traditional news outlets, and if you wanted to hear Sarah Palin's voice, you kind of had to follow her on Facebook and Twitter. And that's what sort of convinced me that we were in a whole brand new world, and that you needed Twitter if you want to be part of the conversation and actually follow the news.

MARTIN: Interesting. Makes sense. But do you ever tweet hegemonic? That's the question I have. Anyway, so two of the top tweets, Keli, you wrote about this for The Root and you started with your tweet from March of 2012 from Fox News personality Geraldo Rivera.

GOFF: You know, it sparked such a conversation in a way that I really don't know that we would've had it without that tweet, which is during the height of the Trayvon Martin coverage, the tragedy of the unarmed black teen who was shot by George Zimmerman, Geraldo Rivera tweeted something to the effect of: Trayvon Martin's hoodie is just as much to blame for this.

And we all know the fallout, but it bears revisiting, which is, oh, a huge conversation about racial profiling was sparked in a way I don't think people outside of minority communities would've been engaged had that tweet not sparked a conversation, right? Because often racial profiling, Michel, gets bogged down into just race, where people say I don't think black people get treated differently in a store. The real question is what he brought up, right? Does the rich white kid of an executive, who happens to be wearing a hoodie because he thinks it looks cool while he goes shopping in Bergdorf's, get treated the same way as the poor black kid who's also wearing the hoodie because he thinks it looks cool? And that's what his conversation sparked. It also sparked a movement of a number of people wearing hoodies in solidarity, a lot of celebrities such as LeBron James, many, many others. And I actually ended up wearing one on-air when I discussed this on-air in solidarity, as well, about this story.

MARTIN: Vivian, what about one of the Twitter trends that was most important to you this year - was about the death of superstar Jenni Rivera and also the sports star Hector Camacho.

HURTADO: Hector "el Macho" Camacho. Yeah, and what's really interesting about this is Jenni Rivera's death and 'el Macho' Camacho's death were huge, but it was really what was going on. The tweet that caught my eye was tweeted by Jorge Ramos who wrote something along the lines of in his tweet that the wall-to-wall Spanish language coverage, the mainstream media just misses that. And that's why they're ratings are down the tubes. And what he meant by that - and it's interesting that Jenni Rivera's funeral was carried live on Univision. You have to understand, Univision sometimes doesn't carry State of the Union live.

MARTIN: But you haven't persuaded me that Twitter is the reason that those figures were covered as they were.

HURTADO: It's magnified.

MARTIN: Yeah. Yeah.

HURTADO: There's conversations happening on Twitter that aren't happening elsewhere for the mainstream. And then where they're happening on Twitter, it's being magnified. But here's the problem: Twitter is a great place for me to magnify my voice, but is anyone who could make decisions and include my voice listening?

MARTIN: Hmm. Keli, what about that? You had another top tweet for 2012 that was important to you. It was about the whole question of the role of women and how that played out during the campaign.

GOFF: Yeah. When Hilary Rosen, Democratic strategist, made what, frankly, was actually an accurate statement about Ann Romney - which I did say in a column - even though Hillary got in a lot of trouble for it, she said, you know, this woman has never worked a day in her life. As I said, if she literally added dot, dot, dot outside of the home, there never would've been a kerfuffle. She didn't add that, so there was a kerfuffle.

And it sparked a lot of controversy that really could have proved problematic, particularly in a presidential campaign, right, where we know women voters were really going to be decisive. So what was interesting, as everyone, I think, was waiting to see, whether or not this was going to be - prove to be a pivotal turning point in the campaign, depending on how the Obama campaign responded. And I actually think they kind of surprised everyone - not the campaign, technically, but Michelle Obama, who was relatively new to Twitter, had not tweeted that much, responded with: All mothers work, and all women deserve respect. And there wasn't really a lot to say on the conservative end in response to blaming the Obamas for anything. This really became about one strategist.

MARTIN: You know, the other interesting thing about it, each of you said that you were kind of dragged to Twitter kicking and screaming. And my guess is partly because you were worried that it would be too time-consuming and it would just be another thing that you had to add to your day. What I'm kind of hearing both of you say is it's become a very efficient way to start conversations, and sometimes - Keli, as you were saying - to end conversations. Viviana?

HURTADO: And receive information.

GOFF: Well, and actually, I would add that, actually, the most widely read story I've ever done in my career - which I still find this surprising. But, you know, I wrote a column about the revelation - if you can call it that - that Paul Ryan, the vice presidential pick's college sweetheart was African-American. I got that story because I happened, I guess, to be the only person who saw the tweet from another reporter who said: Paul Ryan mentioned in an article that his college sweetheart was African-American. And that's how I actually got that story. So it's turned out to be much more efficient, let's say, than I ever thought it would be.


MARTIN: But apart from that, Viviana, one of your final thought here is sometimes it's just fun. And one of the other tweet trends that you wanted to highlight for us is the fictional, Spanglish-speaking mayor of New York City, El Bloombito. And there's - actually, the voice behind El Bloombito is not the person you might expect. So...

HURTADO: No. Now, well, he has a PhD in speaky-the-Spanishy.


HURTADO: And El Bloombito is just this alter ego of Mayor Bloomberg, who speaky the Spanish during these press conferences. And what Jewyorican - aka Rachel Figueroa Levin - has done is just, she tweets out these fictional tweets. You know, for example, during...

MARTIN: Yeah, give us an example.

HURTADO: So during the hurricane, he would say, you know, a tweet would say something along the lines - I'm paraphrasing - be careful-o in Central Park-o because you walk-o under a tree-o, e e-splat-o(ph) .

MARTIN: Oh, no.


HURTADO: And, you know, I mean, it was just - It's just funny. It's fresh. And, you know, you'd think that during, for example, Hurricane Sandy, which was serious, and a lot of people are still without homes, you know, that it might not be taken well. I think Jewyorican - aka El Bloombito - has done an amazing job of capturing what's behind Mayor Bloomberg's, I guess, intents to speak Spanish, and she's done it in a really comical way.

MARTIN: Well, how can we say Happy Nuevo Ano, Viviana?

HURTADO: Well, muchas gracias, Michel-o.


GOFF: And I'm just going to say adios.


GOFF: That's the sum of my contribution.

MARTIN: Viviana Hurtado is blogger-in-chief at the website of "The Wise Latina Club." She joined us here in our Washington, D.C. studios. With us from New York was TheRoot.com's Keli Goff. Ladies, thank you so much. And as we said, Feliz Nuevo Ano. Would that be the right...

HURTADO: Happy Ano Nuevos to you.

MARTIN: Happy Ano Nuevos to you. Yes.

HURTADO: Happy Holidays, everyone. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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