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Dan Baum's smart Twitter move

May 11, 2009 | 11:30 am

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Dan Baum used to be a staff writer for the New Yorker. That gig ended in 2007, but he's just now revealing the details of his tenure there — on Twitter. He began the story on Friday, with a cliffhanger of a phone call inviting him to join the New Yorker staff.

Baum got what sounds like a dream job: $90,000 a year to write 30,000 words for the New Yorker. Then he details the strange relationship of writing from a distance (in his case, Colorado) and perhaps not paying enough attention to the magazine's internal culture. He writes about tensions that arose when his plans seemed to diverge from his editor's needs. And he links to stories that he pitched but that weren't picked up by the magazine.

This is all juicy and delicious for journalists, falling somewhere between voyeurism, professional envy and Shaudenfreude. Over the course of two hours this morning, Baum gained 200 new followers, from more than 800 to more than 1,000.

Which brings up the question: Why now? Baum and the New Yorker parted ways -- amicably enough, it seems -- two years ago.

It could be a Twitter experiment. It reads like a short essay that's been chopped into 140-character bits (in a few places, sentences stretch across two tweets). Or maybe he's promoting something. Could he have a book out?

In fact, he does. "Nine Lives: Death and Life in New Orleans" was well-reviewed when it was released in February. It's doing pretty well on Amazon (No. 1 in the subcategories of histories/Louisiana and biographies and memoirs/regional U.S./South). But it's hard for a book to stay top of mind after the first flurry of attention.

With his Twitter posts on his New Yorker tenure, Baum has brought renewed attention to himself and, by extension, to his most recent book. He'll be finishing up his story tomorrow; until then, he tweets, "Let's all take a break and get some work done."

— Carolyn Kellogg

Image: Dan Baum's Twitter stream

After the jump: Dan Baum on "Nine Lifes: Death and Life in New Orleans."

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