Digital Conference

Yes, Cory Booker Really Does Write His Own Tweets

Mr. Booker Is Co-Founder of Social-Video Platform #Waywire

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Newark Mayor Cory Booker speaks with WayWire CEO Nathan Richardson and Ad Age editor Abbey Klaassen at the Ad Age Digital Conference Tuesday, April 16, 2013.
Newark Mayor Cory Booker speaks with WayWire CEO Nathan Richardson and Ad Age editor Abbey Klaassen at the Ad Age Digital Conference Tuesday, April 16, 2013. Credit: Photo by Patrick Butler

Newark Mayor Cory has tweeted 26,915 times and counting and says that nearly all of those tweets are his own.

"It's seamless to me now. I really don't think about it," Mr. Booker said, noting that he had been tweeting backstage at Ad Age's Digital Conference on his BlackBerry in between sending texts to the Newark Police Department.

Arguably the most digitally-savvy of political officials, the mayor spoke of his belief in technology's power to transform both media and the democratic process, which he illustrated by describing his own "kerfuffle" with Conan O'Brien in 2009.

Their mock feud began when Mr. O'Brien made a joke on his late-night show in response to a health-care initiative in Newark, saying that the best way for local residents to take care of their health would be to buy a bus ticket out of Newark. Mr. Booker then realized that his own fast-growing social media following gave him an opportunity to make Newark stop being the butt of the joke for once.

"What we said was this is a powerful tool, and we could take control of our city's brand," he said.

He promptly filmed a YouTube video in which he announced that he had placed the comedian on the no-fly list at Newark Airport. The fake feud then escalated to the point where former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was called on to Mr. O'Brien's show to be an intermediary.

Though he's mayor of a large city with a national profile (as well as an undeclared candidate for the Senate), Mr. Booker thinks that social tools give lower-profile citizens an opportunity to be heard as well.

"It's breaking up the oligarchy of media and letting voices that are often disrespected or marginalized get into the national conversation," he said. In terms of other transformative technologies, he observed that collaborative consumption companies like AirBnb and the ride-sharing service Lyft have the potential to give a person in Newark a new way to earn a living.

Video Startup, #Waywire
Mr. Booker is also co-founder of a social-video platform called #Waywire, which lets users curate a selection of videos that represents them (one of his own is for civil rights and includes a video of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.). He appeared with the startup's CEO, Nathan Richardson, at the conference.

The mayor's hope is that #Waywire -- which unveiled a new Pinterest-esque look today -- will help promote social change by helping voices bubble up that might otherwise be lost in the YouTube maelstrom.

"My interest is [to] elevate voices that are relevant, that are pertinent, that have conviction," he said. He also noted that #Waywire could help news outlets cover subjects like bullying, in which the testimony of victims' experience is more compelling than a reporter's narration.

Mr. Booker also spoke of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg's $100 million donation to Newark schools in 2009. A part of that has gone to fund expanded school days, he said, with the underlying notion that better education for today's schoolchildren will bolster the economy going forward.

"The genius of Mark is to understand that right now in America, we do not have an unemployment crisis. We have a training and education crisis," he said.

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