Update, Jan. 24, 2012: David Brooks is on Twitter! Follow him at @DavidBrooksNYT. Looks like his first tweet was on July 26, 2011.
New York Times journalist David Brooks isn’t a tweeter, and it doesn’t appear that he’ll become one anytime soon. Nor is he a blogger, or even a big fan of the platform, he explained last night to a room full of students who make up the staff of the student newspaper at the college where I work. I was lucky enough to be able to sit in on this intimate conversation between Brooks, a seasoned columnist and journalist, and these aspiring journalists/media professionals.
It was an awesome experience. As I said in a blog post where I interviewed my career-hero and PR/social media genius Sarah Evans, I get a little star-struck around folks who have climbed the career ladder to places I aspire and admire.
Back to Brooks and Twitter. He explained to us what one of the students chimed in and called his “hierarchy of journalism”: Books are better than magazine articles. Magazine articles are better than newspaper articles. Newspaper articles are better than blogs. And blogs are better than tweets. He explains what he calls “the seduction of the blog.”
“It’s seductive, but what are you going to remember in a year? You’re going to remember a great piece you read in The New Yorker or a great book. I doubt you’ll ever remember a blog post.” How true is this? Certainly it depends in part on your generation.
When he told the group that he wasn’t on Twitter, I immediately thought: I know. I tried to find you. I felt like a journalist who had done her research, a nice throwback to my college days as a newspaper editor.
And speaking of college newspapers, Brooks was the opinion editor at the University of Chicago’s campus newspaper. He shared with us a great story: during his junior year, because he was “young and a smart-aleck,” he wrote a parody of William F. Buckley, Jr.’s book Overdrive.
“It was kind of mean,” Brooks laughed. Then Buckley came to campus for a talk, and during his talk, Buckley said, “David Brooks, if you’re in the audience, I want to give you a job.”
“And that was the big break of my life,” Brooks told us. Incredible. Do those kinds of breaks happen today?
Brooks passed on to the students a bit of advice Buckley had given him: “Being editor of a school newspaper is the only time everyone will care about what you have to say.” Everyone kind of laughed, especially since it was coming from a columnist whose op-eds are so popular they’re published in the New York Times.
I’ve blogged about the value of a journalism background and the importance of having campus-newspaper experience. My years as editor of my undergraduate college newspaper were some of the best of my life and certainly among the most formative intellectually during my college career. The college I work at doesn’t have a journalism or communications major, so these students’ experience on the campus paper is invaluable. And I sat there with a ridiculous grin on my face because I knew what a huge opportunity this was for them. I might have been more excited than they were.
Mr. Brooks, I know you don’t read many blogs, but if your Google alerts catches this one and you do read it, thank you for making Thursday evening an excellent one for a lot of folks. You have at least one new fan.