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I Follow: Keith Olbermann

ESPN's Keith Olbermann (Lou Rocco / ESPN Images)
ESPN’s Keith Olbermann
(Lou Rocco/ESPN Images)

Editor’s note: I Follow is all about ESPN employees on Twitter: what they tweet, whom they follow and how you can interact socially with anyone and everyone.

Keith Olbermann returns to ESPN tonight with his new late-night show Olbermann. The show will generally be presented live from its Times Square studio in New York City at 11 p.m. ET, Monday-Friday on ESPN2. Olbermann will showcase his unique personality as he focuses on the day’s relevant sports topics. The show will feature a mix of perspective and commentary, interviews, contributors, panel discussions and highlights.

Twitter handle: @KeithOlbermann
Followers: 460,342 (as of 8/26/13)
Following: 586

When did you join Twitter and why?
Actually I signed up first in May 2008. I’ve never been a tech luddite (I had a VCR in 1978) but I have to admit I feared that somehow my email would be publicly accessible, so I never tweeted. Then in the spring of 2010 I got talked into it by my staff, and I even sent out my first tweet on the air under the tutelage of the noted social media guru (and “PC” in the “Mac and PC” commercials) John Hodgman. He said I would not only enjoy Twitter, but that I was made for Twitter. Given how often I’m on there I think he was right, although the next time I saw John a month later I charged at him screaming “Hodgman! What did you get me into?”

What do you hope fans gain from following you?
This sounds like #humblebrag but given the avalanche of information that falls on the average person each day, I’ve found Twitter to be a really clean way of letting people know what I’m going to be doing – on TV or the Internet or wherever – so they can get first access to it. It’s mutually beneficial self-promotion.

Plus, it’s fun to interact with viewers (and critics) and to say thank you, or to start fencing with them, as appropriate. In a sports context, even when I was only doing news, it was always the venue to send out photos from events or news I’d stumbled on in person or elsewhere on Twitter or the web. Also, I have an affinity for taking weather photos and a great place to take them from, and I really have never found another place to send out sunset shots.

Who is your favorite person to follow on Twitter?
There’s that core group of baseball information people upon whom I rely – [senior baseball writer for ESPN The Magazine] Buster Olney and [ESPN commentator] [Jon] Sciambi and such. And there are some very funny, very bizarre folks I really enjoy.

But honestly, the one whose tweets I most often retweet or even email to friends, come from the historian Michael Beschloss – whom I’ve had the pleasure of working with and who knows all the presidents backwards and forwards. Every day, he sends out the most extraordinary photographs and sidelights to moments in American history. I literally went past the Ansonia apartment building here in New York this afternoon – it’s been there about 114 years. What did Beschloss tweet tonight? A photo of the Ansonia and that same neighborhood – from 1907!

Is there something that comes to mind as one of your most memorable Twitter exchanges?
You mean besides meeting Paul McCartney because of Twitter? Not long after I started, I was followed by a great fellow named Brian Ray, who turned out to be the guitarist for McCartney on his tours, and eventually when they came to play in New York, Brian invited me to the show and to the after-party and I got to meet a man I’d been a fan of since I was five years old.

I’ve actually made real-life friends through Twitter, reconnected with old ones (like the actor Josh Charles, who more or less played me on “SportsNight” and wound up in the fantasy baseball league I’m commissioner of).

Maybe the most bizarre one occurred in a span of about two hours in 2011. I see on my timeline that the comedian and actor Eddie Izzard – who has about 3,000,000 followers – had tweeted one of my commentaries and I tweet him back to thank him and the next thing I know I’ve got a direct message from him with a phone number and the message “call me.” We chatted for about an hour and have stayed in touch.