Tomorrow, my newest hire starts here at The Atlantic. Robinson Meyer is his name, he just finished up school at Northwestern, and he may be the only college kid to actually get a job because of how good he is on Twitter. He's so good that I've been wanting to hire him since he was a sophomore. I brought him in as an intern last summer, and now, we've hired him as a staffer.
The Twitter thing is not what you're thinking. I didn't look at his Klout score. I don't care how many followers he has. I don't care how funny he is (though he's very funny).
Rob got my attention by becoming a part of The Atlantic Tech's extended cast of writers and interlocutors. His network analysis was uncanny. One minute I've never heard of this kid, and the next minute, he's engaged in interesting, respectful conversation with half of my Internet friends.
That takes a certain kind of fearlessness, and most of the time it'd be paired with arrogance. But not with Rob. His humility is genuine, driven by a real desire to think this stuff through. And the thing that I always noticed about Meyer's conversations with everyone was that he was such a good and generous reader of other people's work. He tended to respond with whatever the opposite of snark is. His role became to connect good ideas with each other by connecting good writers with each other. He wove the social fabric tighter and made our conversations richer.
One day, he might fill in Nieman Lab's Joshua Benton on the "flaneur-ish" blog Sex Pigeon. Another, he might connect George Mason professor Mark Sample's essay on the 21st century as the fugitive century to the Snowden affair. Or stitch together two of Alan Jacobs' essays in one tweet.
Obviously, these skills would be valuable at any time. But the current media climate devolves an enormous amount of control and responsibility to the people at they keyboards. And then demands that they write very quickly. There aren't layers and layers of people between you and public. Under those circumstances, many young writers get themselves into all kinds of trouble. It's too easy to read, react, and snark. (I know. I've done it.)
Under these story production conditions, we don't just need good writers. We need good readers and connectors. People whose instincts guide them away from the worst that we can do with these blogs.
Rob's hiring is almost an Onion headline -- "College Kid Lands Job at Magazine Founded by Emerson by Tweeting." But the tools and culture of Twitter allow you to see how, over time, people respond to the world. You can carry out a longitudinal study in someone's attitude and disposition. And from what I've seen, the physical person that shows up when you meet someone you know from the service is pretty much what you expected. I'l tell you this: I know a lot more about Rob from his Twitter usage than I could ever locate on his college transcript or resume.
Over three years and 21,549 tweets, he proved that he has the right instincts. We're immensely happy to welcome him to our team. Oh, and you can find him on Twitter at @yayitsrob.