Meet the first network TV journalist on Twitter

By Cory Bergman 

His name is @newmediajim. Or to be precise, Jim Long, a photojournalist for NBC News who joined Twitter on October 24, 2006. Today, he has over 42,000 followers — more than many on-air correspondents.

“I would wager that I was the first network television news presence on Twitter, and would challenge anyone to prove otherwise,” he tells us. After punching up a few of my early-adopter friends on, it looks like he’s right.

But the story of Jim Long goes far beyond his early foray on Twitter. Jim is a social media machine, and he does it all while covering some of the biggest stories around the world. He’s a perfect case study of how to offer a personal window into a story without sounding “promotional.” In a word, he’s authentic.

Jim just returned from covering the tornado aftermath in Alabama, and while he was there, he sent out dozens of updates and photos on Twitter and Facebook. He mixed observations with anecdotes, updating his friends and followers as he went. “The people of Alabama are incredibly warm and kind,” he said in one tweet. “Tuscaloosa folks keep coming by with food and water for the news crews!”

“I really like people!” Jim says in an interview with Lost Remote. When I met him for the first time (at the SXSW Twitter party, of course), he seemed to know everyone. “I enjoy meeting and talking with people,” he says. “My social media style reflects who I am. I am a smartass, an entrepreneur, an occasional deep thinker, a friend, a husband, a dad, a hard worker. All of those things are part of who I am and that’s evident in my social media style.” Jim is constantly meeting people, online and in person.

Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Jim lives an exciting life — he sent this tweet while he was in Baghdad last month. Back in September of 2007, Jim left on a secret trip to Iraq with President Bush on Air Force One. “The secrecy around the trip made it all feel very Tom Clancy. I had to maintain my routine, which included my tweets,” he explains, which for a frequent tweeter like @newmediajim, wasn’t an easy task.

“On our long flight from Joint Base Andrews, people began to notice my absence,” he explains. “Once we had safely landed and the AP had reported our arrival, I was able to get on Twitter.” And he found a tweet that said, “@newmediajim must be in Iraq” because he “went off the grid 24 hours ago.”

But normally, Jim’s stories aren’t deep secrets, and he often posts photos from around the world (that’s him on the left) — or from behind the camera of an upcoming presidential press conference. These glimpses make stories feel more real, more personal, like these recent Facebook updates:

Photojournalists are sometimes overlooked in the newsroom, so I asked Jim, what would you tell those who are striving to reinvent themselves in a social media world? “All of us are much smarter and more capable than the shackles our traditional media job titles,” he told us. “I believe web technology provides boundless opportunity for those who can grasp it. In the words of a well known sports brand: just do it. Don’t be a media worker, be a micro media mogul!!”