John McCain submits to ‘Twitterview’ with ABC

Members of the news media have been taking it on the chin of late, first for their slowness to warm up to the Web, then for an often clumsy embrace of new media.

But never let it be said that these Blogger-Come-Latelys aren’t trying. We’ve seen news organizations team with social networks to gloss up their coverage of things like presidential debates and elections, desperate newspapers have been doing more and more with online video, and now we’re Twittering.

Which brings us to today. George Stephanopoulos, ABC’s chief Washington correspondent, wrangled John McCain into a jaunty ‘Twitterview’ today, asking the Republican standard-bearer about his thoughts on AIG, Obama’s national security policies, and his daughter’s recent feud with shrill conservative firebrands Laura Ingraham and Ann Coulter.

It was an experiment. Stephanopoulos admitted as much when he opened his blog recapping the experience, “Today, I tried something new.”

The idea itself was admirable enough. Stephanopoulos has more than 177,000 followers on his Twitter feed (McCain has more than 227,000) he could poll for suggestions about what to ask.

The AIG bailout and national security (“What worries you more: Pakistan or Iran?”) seem in step with a typical Stephanopoulos interview, but the line of questioning about McCain’s daughter mixing it up with the Coulter and Ingraham might has the fingerprints of the Twitter community all over it.

Either way, the interview carried the limitations inherent to the medium. Both questions and answers were short, lacking nuance and context. Hard-hitting it was not, but it was conceptual.

It is also refreshingly difficult to obfuscate behind a barrage of verbiage when you’re asked a direct question and confined to 140 characters.

For McCain, the presidential candidate much maligned among the Web set for seemingly hopelessly out of step compared to the dreamy, BlackBerry-clutching, social-networking powerhouse they helped elect, it also couldn’t hurt from an image standpoint.

So if no news was broken in the Twitterview, we can forgive Stephanopoulos for willing to dabble with a new form. It was a novelty, to be sure, but so is Twitter. And as long as these things captivate the public imagination, experiments like ABC’s today — and McCain’s willingness to give it a go — are to be commended, I suppose.

McCain’s final tweet: “Thanks a lot george, let’s do it again soon. now i look forward to reading our followers comments and insults”

Still not sure what to make of this one.

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