Do you remember March 2007 when Maxim Magazine arrived in Israel for a five-day photo shoot of former Israel Army soldiers clad in bikinis?
In the words of Arye Mekel, former Consul General of Israel in New York, the country asked the magazine to do the shoot as a means of enhancing their public image.
The public face for the Israeli Consulate–then–and now is David Saranga, the consul for media and public affairs.
In the words of the Jewish Telegraph Agency, which blogged a historic first:
By the time the press conference began, some 24 hours later, @IsraelConsulate was following 1,159 Twitter users and had 1,348 followers.
Three hours later, at 4:30 p.m., I saw it followed 1,163 and was followed by 1,885.
Now, at 8 p.m., it’s following 1,635 and is followed by 2,104.
Wanna guess the numbers in the morning? It’s fair to say they’ve settled.
Ars Technica’s David Chartier opined in the hours preceding the conference:
Opening the doors this wide to a global audience could very well overwhelm the Consulate’s team with questions, many of which will undoubtedly be duplicates. Twitter’s focus on absolute simplicity may also make some Q&A conversations difficult to follow.
Though one couldn’t say real twittering rapport was achieved, the flood of questions from round the planet kept the Consul’s fingers hopping! Twitter is probably not the best medium to conduct open press conferences that are likely to attract large numbers of participants.
Ohio tweeter @jillmz suggested CoverItLive be used in the future.
I couldn’t agree more. CoverItLive is a live blogging application which I plan to use more, personally, in 2009, to help cover live events. For instance, I assisted Jillian York, Ange Embuldeniya, and others in an Election Night live blogging exercise on behalf of Voices without Votes.
While the world waits to see what Saranga and his new media team will do next, you can peruse through the global questions asked about the Gaza situation; and follow the Consulate’s four-part series of “citizen press” responses.
Saranga explains why the responses look different on israelpolitik.org than on Twitter:
The conversations were ‘expanded’ (meaning we removed the short ‘twitter talk’ and re-wrote fully spelled words) but otherwise unchanged.
By means of example, here’s a typical response Saranga tweeted during the two-hour event to Virginia resident Tom Wyld:
And here’s the expanded version:
The Dignity didn’t respond to calls to halt and rammed an IDF ship. It was escorted out to international waters. Until this operation, ships were let in; they are not let in now to keep them from harm.
If answers were written out on Twitter, it would be unnecessary to take man-hours and re-write everything. Not to mention, Twitter messages are indexed by search engines and so if someone is searching for a keyword, she may find the Twitter message without any understanding of context.
I hope Saranga and his team keep up their Twitter appearances. I hope this “citizen press conference” is the start of a long-term presence of responding to queries online.
In the meantime, feel free to visit the Israel Defense Force’s YouTube channel, also launched yesterday, and now live with 10 videos. Last I checked, the videos amassed over 70,000 views.
Maxim and magazines were the start. Who knows where it’s going, but I like it so far.
Any guesses on the next country to emulate Israel and use new media for a communication channel?