CEOs tweet in news story reported completely on Twitter

Is the USA drifting away from capitalism toward a European-style hybrid of capitalism and socialism? Let's tweet some CEOs and see what they think.

Turns out that the top tweeting executives nationwide widely agree with former CEOs Jack Welch of General Electric and Steve Case of AOL that the country has made a detour, but a necessary one, to get around the economic wreckage. Most recommend a quick return to the interstate of capitalism.

Tweeted Ken Robbins, president of Response Mine Interactive, an Atlanta tech company that helps companies boost revenue from search engines and interactive media: "Government (Gummit) controls business. I ate Chinese 2 days ago. The restaurant had 9 licenses/permits on the wall. (1of2)."

Huh?

This is not your typical treatise on the challenges facing the U.S. economy. This story is largely an interpretation of what the executives say, because all interviews, top to bottom, were completed on Twitter. Undertaking an experiment, USA TODAY might be the first major news outlet to report an entire story on the Web's hottest new hot spot, limiting itself to the growing number of CEOs it could reach via the tweet. There were no phone calls. No e-mails. No next-day delivery. Of course, nothing face to face. Only tweets from Welch, Case and 19 other top executives. Even most of the photos of CEOs published with this story were downloaded to USA TODAY by a link provided via Twitter.

For those yet to be baptized into the latest social networking craze, Twitter is a site that lets people "follow" what others write with an important restriction: Any single piece of prose distributed via Twitter, called a tweet, is limited to 140 characters or less.

That's restrictive, to the point that the preceding sentence, at 267 characters, would require a major haircut to be launched into Tweeterdom.

"140 character thing is a pain but forces u 2 distill your thoughts 2 the very essence of the subject. good luck on the piece," tweeted David Morris, CEO of Dillanos Coffee Roasters, a wholesaler of beans to coffeehouses in 50 states. He employs 80; he has 25,500 followers on Twitter.

USA TODAY exchanged 427 tweets with the 21 executives, mostly over three days. Twitter may be the latest in social media, but it hearkens back to the 19th century when newspaper correspondents filed by telegraph. Stop. Or even almost 27 years ago when USA TODAY was launched with sentences squeezed to fit because so few stories were jumped to inside pages.

Conspicuously absent from this story are Twitter executives: CEO Evan Williams, Chairman Jack Dorsey and co-founder Biz Stone. Do any of them ever look at Twitter? If so, they chose not to respond to numerous tweets for comment from USA TODAY and other tweeters who saw that USA TODAY was after them and enlisted in an unsuccessful quest to get their attention.

Even as USA TODAY and its enlistees were trying to hunt down the executives, Elisabeth Hasselbeck tweeted that they were on the set of The View. "about to head upstairs for show: just hung out with twitter guys(founders)&their wives.love'em," Hasselbeck tweeted.

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