South By Southwest: When Politicians Tweet — TIME to Present Conversation with @CoryBooker

SXSW: There's never been a politician quite like Cory Booker — at least in terms of a social media persona.

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There’s never been a politician quite like Cory Booker — at least in terms of a social media persona.

I was a reporter at the Star-Ledger in Newark, New Jersey the day that Mayor Booker took office back in 2006, and I have followed his administration closely ever since. It was in the winter of 2010 when the mayor’s personal twitter feed caught my attention, right around the time he responded to a nearby tweet looking for someone to shovel an elderly resident’s driveway. Seemingly always logged on and eager to help, Booker has won over fans and followers well beyond Newark’s city limits. And his approachable, accessible online persona has hinted at a new era of social governance, where technology allows citizens to interact more directly than ever before with those they have voted into office.

It was through Twitter that I approached Mayor Booker about appearing at South By Southwest Interactive 2013, to talk about both this brave new world of the online elected official and his role as co-founder of Waywire, the new social video side for millennial do-gooders. After a few direct messages, Booker accepted the invitation, and South By Southwest announced the timing of the event late last week: Mayor Booker will talk Twitter, Waywire and Newark at 12:30 p.m. March 10. Watch for more coverage right here, on Techland.

More details from the SXSW announcement:

Few politicians use social media as openly, or prolifically, as Cory Booker. As the mayor of Newark, New Jersey, he has used his personal Twitter feed to interact with constituents on an hourly basis; to follow @CoryBooker is to understand the daily challenge of leading one of America’s largest cities. The mayor is routinely responding to questions and complaints – about issues ranging from potholes to snowdrifts and neighborhood violence. When not personally investigating an issue, he forwards phone numbers and e-mail addresses to his followers, directing residents to various city agencies. He endorses city businesses, shares inspirational quotes, responds directly to tweets of joy or frustration from his followers – and just last night shared his unabashed love for all things Star Trek. With 1.3 million followers – a number rapidly growing by the day – many of Mayor Booker’s biggest fans live far outside the city limits of Newark.

In an age of media advisers, pollsters and strategists, when most politicians appear only in carefully scripted settings, Mayor Booker has used Twitter to defy the norm, opening himself up to candid, continuous (and some might say relentless) contact with those he governs.  In 2012, he also aggressively used his social feeds to respond to the fallout of Superstorm Sandy, which left New Jersey in a state of emergency, and used his personal Twitter feed to offer hourly updates on his widely publicized week-long Food Stamp Challenge.

What has Mayor Booker learned about his community through their RT’s and DM’s? Have his online interactions led to shifts in policy or priorities? How does he see social media reshaping what it means to lead and govern in the 21st century? Alternatively, does he see any risks, in becoming so engaged with residents who tweet that he loses sight of the citizens without a Twitter handle?

And as the mayor considers a 2014 senate bid, does he believe that a Senator Booker could be every bit as open and candid via social media as Mayor Booker has been?

Join us for a conversation between Mayor Booker and Steven James Snyder of TIME, in a session titled, “Cory Booker: The New Media Politician,” on Sunday, March 10 at 12:30pm at the Long Center in Dell Hall.

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