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The 4 Tweeters became war correspondents at Gettysburg (kind of)

You’ve heard about rain delays in baseball. Well, last weekend’s re-enactment was deferred for an hour by a heat delay. Hanover Evening Sun Editor Marc Charisse, right, and I tweeted about the Civil War awaiting the start of the re-enactment. The York Daily Record/Sunday News’ Pat Abdalla and Chambersburg Public Opinion’s Matt Major made up the other pair of the 4 Tweeters. (See additional photograph below.)

“Four reporters — @esmcharisse, @jamesmcclure, @ydrsouthpaw and @mattmajorpo — reported on the Battle at Devil’s Den at the 149th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg as it was happening.”

So the York Daily Record/Sunday News night metro editor Kate Harmon wrote in summarizing the work of four southcentral Pennsylvania journalists who live tweeted a re-enacted battle last weekend.

That appeared at the end of a ScribbleLive module which captured the tweets and displayed them on ydr.com, eveningsun.com and publicopiniononline.com.

For her work as the inside editor on this event, we named Kate honorary tweeter. That’s according to Pat Abdalla‘s tweet: “@katesharmon honorary member of the Twitterbrigade.” (Abdalla, using the @ydrsouthpaw handle, is the only left-handed member of the 4 Tweeters.)

As far as is known, this is the first time a group of journalists used social media’s Twitter to tell the story of the Gettysburg re-enactment. This form of social media requires discipline in writing because it offers only 140 characters per message, called a “tweet.”

In the spirit of the 4 Tweeters, I list several points about this experience in groups of four:

4 goals for the event:

1. Informing and engaging readers about this annual re-enactment in a new, different way.

2. Gain experience in coordinating coverage among four reporters representing three news organizations in a three-county area.

3. See how the newest communications technology works, particularly in 100-degree heat. Test ScribbleLive, the new device for collecting and displaying tweets in real-time.

4. Make the coverage a fun event for readers – and us.

4 lessons from the event

1. The battery life of devices, iPads and particularly cell phones, seemed to be reduced in 100-degree temperatures. Further,  the iPad screens were hard to read, given the brightness of the day.

2. We came equipped with, but did not need to use, a 4G device that would have enabled us to tweet even if 3G cell phone service was taxed. This happened to us in covering a recent high school graduation and will certainly be an issue at next year’s 150th-anniversary re-enactment when the number of re-enactors will be multiplied tenfold.

3.  In coverage of an actual news event, we would have needed to be in better touch with our editors in the office – honorary Twitterbrigade member Kate Harmon and Sunday editor Scott Blanchard.  Similarly, in covering an actual battle or news event, we would have been more in touch with each other during the event. In fact, in such a sprawling event, we would need an editor on site to coordinate the reporters.

4. We realized too late that the #Gettysburg hashtag, a Twitter convention used to collect stories from one event on Twitter, that we chose in advance did not signal that this was a re-enactment, not a real battle. So, we generally added a second hashtag, #reenact, to signal that the action was not real.

4 representative tweets
from 4 Tweeters

– “Took tour of #reenact ‘command center.’ 1 computer screen tracking weather. Meade/Lee would have been jealous.”

– “Our Southern boys are badly outnumbered today, like always, sensing political fallout in Richmond already.” – Matt Major

– “This Yank casualty seems to be moving an awful lot. MEDIC!” – Pat Abdalla

– “although a Confederate victory, Houck’s Ridge was costly in time and men and slowed Reb advance, so glory enough for both sides” – Marc Charisse

4 representative tweets
from other tweeters

– “Safety more important than authenticity. Gettysburg re-enactors struggle to cope with soaring temps. Updates to come.”  – Tim Prudente, Hanover Evening Sun

– ” Let me know if y’all find Tom Berenger’s beard. I think it fell off.”  Chris Otto, York Daily Record

– @YDRSouthpaw love the hash tag! – Alpinto

– “It’s a tough job monitoring the #gettysburg battle from afar. Can’t imagine how much more difficult back then.” – Kate Harmon

My favorite tweet of the day?

We’ll just limit it to one.

PrecPetty tweeted:

“Tweeting the battle of #Gettysburg 140 characters at a time…This is pretty cool. ”


Also of interest:

– Check out Buffy Andrews’ use of Geofeedia to pull in photos and Tweets from the battlefield: Gettysburg Battle Re-enactment 2012.

– For an old-fashioned news report from the re-enactment, see Bill Landauer’s In re-enacting game, you can be hardcore, or you can be farb.

– The Philadelphia Inquirer’s preview coverage of the 4 Tweeters and the re-enactment: At Gettysburg, tweeting the news and battle data.

– My yorktownsquare.com blog account of the tweeting experience: The 4 Tweeters use iPads, cell phones to tweet Devil’s Den battle, 140 characters at time.

Marc Charisse catches Pat Abdalla, Union Army reporter, and Jim McClure, event commentator, tweeting before the re-enactment. Thanks for the ‘East of Gettysburg’ plug, Marc.