Thursday, June 11, 2009

Swisher's Tough Week - Blunders On The Field, On The Bases, and on... Twitter?

Over the past few days, we have all been witness to some shoddy play by fan-favorite Nick Swisher on the field, capped off by him inexplicably being doubled off of second base in the second inning of tonight's game. Shortly thereafter, some Nick Swisher fans on Twitter alerted us to an apparent blunder that he has made off the field as well.

Earlier this evening, many Yankees fans on Twitter began noticing that they were blocked from following Nick Swisher's "Tweets" (140 character updates, for those living under a rock and unaware of how Twitter works). At one time, these fans followed @NickSwisher on Twitter. Recently, they noticed that the only time they saw his updates was when other Yankees fans "re-tweeted" what he had to say. When they went to his page to re-follow him, they received the message that they were "blocked by the user."

Upon further review, it appears that all of the fans blocked from viewing Nick Swisher's "tweets" are people who have mentioned his publicist and his/her possible connection to "tweeting" on his behalf. For example:

I think @nickswisher might need a new PR person, the texts are getting a little screwy

I thought I read somewhere that he tweets thru his publicist. RT @YankeeGirl20: Does @NickSwisher know how to read his replies? Hmmm?

@NickSwisher You sound like you work for the PR dept. Is Cash or Steiny actually writing this? Or are you really this much of a pollyanna?

Since the beginning of the season, there have been varied reports about whether or not Nick Swisher makes his own "tweets." At first it was just assumed that he was dictating the tweets to a publicist, but recently, Swisher defended his Twitter account (video, half-way through), claiming that he is solely responsible for the content, he posts the updates, and he reads what the fans have to say about him.

Before branding the fun-loving Nick Swisher a stuck up jerk, lets look at the facts. It appears that all three members of Twitter who were blocked by the Nick Swisher account had negative things to say about Nick Swisher's publicist.

Is there any reason in the world that Nick Swisher would go out of his way to block himself from seeing such tweets under his mentions tab? We might be able to justify it if Nick Swisher blocked people on Twitter if they were being overly negative toward him and he didn't want to read the typical Yankees fan negativity. After all, he is probably one of the more positive baseball players around.

Some fans still believe that a publicist is to blame, and this idea of "ghost twittering" isn't anything new. The New York Times felt compelled to publish a piece about the practice back in March, focusing on Britney Spears' account in particular:

“It’s O.K. to tweet for a brand,” he said, remarking how common it is for companies to have Twitter accounts, “but not O.K. for a celebrity. But the truth is, they are a brand. What they are to the public is not always what they are behind the curtain. If the manager knows that better than the star, then they should do it.”

In the last couple of months, the Britney Spears Twitter stream has become a model of transparency. Where the feed once seemed that it was all written personally by Ms. Spears — even the blatantly promotional items about a new album — lately it can read like a group blog, with some posts signed “Britney,” some signed by “Adam Leber, manager” and others by “Lauren.” That would be Lauren Kozak, social-media director of (Ms. Spears’s management team declined to be interviewed for this article.)
According to Nick's publicist Kathy Jacobson (who also represents MLB Twitterers such as Barry Zito, Brian Wilson and CC Sabathia, "Nick would not know how to block anyone on Twitter and if anyone is blocked, it was not on purpose," adding "this is a non-story." She also wanted to let everyone know that Nick is "having a ball with Twitter, and loves to hear from his fans - good and bad." According to her "every single word on the Twitter page is written by him." We suggested that she doesn't bother Nick about this after being swept out of Boston, but she promised that she was going to text Nick and make sure any fans are unblocked immediately.

Since Nick Swisher has fast become a fan favorite in New York, we sincerely hope that this is merely a Twitter glitch and as Jacobson indicated, a "non-story." Watching Nick Swisher play the outfield for the Yankees is a joy, and after sitting in the bleachers for a recent game, it is apparent that he is eager to get the fans involved in the game. We witnessed him waving his arms while playing the outfield, trying to get fans to make more noise when a Yankees pitcher had two strikes. We also saw him quieting the crowd when they were booing a Yankees pitcher and calling for a different one. Essentially, Nick Swisher is everything that a baseball player should be. It would be a shame if his image was negatively affected by unecessarily blocking fans from reading his updates on a micro-blogging website.

UPDATE (11:23 PM): Minutes after this article was sent to Nick's publicist, the users in question began to be unblocked, starting with dp57, then DGiant, and finally Section59Mike. We are glad to see that Yankees fans are able to follow their favorite micro-blogger once again, and are glad that we were able to help straighten this out.
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