I recently found myself in the incredibly surreal situation of being a (real-life) reporter involved in a Twitter conversation about a real story with fictional journalists from HBO's "The Newsroom." Take a second to let that sink in.
I wrote a story earlier this week about a Montana judge under fire for giving a 30 day sentence to a former teacher who raped a 14-year-old girl who later committed suicide.
A few hours later, the workday was over and I went out to dinner with a friend.
Meanwhile, unbeknownst to me, the characters from HBO's "The Newsroom" started their own Twitter conversation about my story, in which I became a participant by virtue of my @ChristinaNg27 Twitter handle being pulled into their tweets.
Basically what happened is ACN (Atlantis Cable News) associate producer Maggie Jordan tweeted my story.
Judge defends 30day sentence for a teacher who raped 14yo:"It was horrible, but it wasn't this forcible beat-up rape" http://t.co/WXyLIJYLCT— Maggie Jordan (@MaggieJordanACN) August 28, 2013
Then ACN News Night senior producer Jim Harper replied.
From there, AWM (Atlantis World Media) CEO Leona Lansing jumped in and looped in ACN News Night's executive producer MacKenzie McHale.
My mind was blown.
Within minutes, Elliot Hirsch, host of ACN's Right Now with Elliot Hirsch, had tweeted me and then … the Holy Grail …. the email that said, "Will McAvoy is now following you on Twitter." I'm not going to lie, I felt a momentary swell of pride that the great Will McAvoy had deemed me worthy.
And then I remembered that these esteemed journalists are all fake.
HBO didn't respond to a request for comment, but most of the character Twitter accounts say in the bios that they are not officially affiliated with the network or the show. (The Daily Beast recently wrote about the man behind the @WillMcAvoyACN Twitter handle, which has more than 64,000 followers.)
What surprised me most was that the tweets I saw about my story from the characters were informative, factual and accurate. It truly felt like an informed dialogue between fellow journalists. I soon found that I wasn't the only one.
Former CBSSports.com general manager Jason Kint tweeted me, "Love it. Happens to me weekly."
I called Jason and to talk about the strange semi-real world we had both been pulled into.
"Probably dozens of times I've had exchanges with the characters and the first time I'd only describe it as surreal," he told me.
Even though we know the character tweets presumably don't come from show creator Aaron Sorkin or even HBO, Jason said it made him feel more engaged with the show.
"I was just making a general comment about something that was happening on the show and I received a reply from Will McAvoy and it definitely brought a chuckle and I felt like I suddenly was engaging with the show and a character in a whole new way," Jason said.
"You can actually find yourself in a real discussion about real news," he added. "They're parody accounts but you start to [engage] because they play the characters so well."
I guess it's good to know that if Sunday night rolls around and I take issue with anything Will or Mack do on the show, I can get on Twitter and hash things out directly with my new friends. Sort of.