If you're active on Twitter, you've probably noticed that some accounts have blue check marks and others do not. The blue check mark signifies that your account is authentic.
I see some value in that. It's easy to create an account that mimics another and use it to mislead others, or even just to be funny. It's the 2021 equivalent of a phony phone call.
Most plastics professionals probably don't care if they have a blue check mark. But to some journalists, the blue check mark is a big deal.
I've looked into getting a blue check a few times since Twitter rolled them out in 2009, but I've never spent more than a few minutes on the effort. The most recent time came a few weeks ago, when Audrey LaForest, one of our former reporters who now works at a sister Crain newspaper, posted that she had the coveted blue check.
"Thank you @verified for the quick verification effort!" she wrote. "It's now @Twitter official: I am Audrey LaForest. Washington, D.C., reporter for @Automotive_News, mother of two cats, drinker of copious amounts of black coffee."
That's the kind of tweet that makes other journalists green with envy. So I decided, once again, to look into getting the blue check for our Plastics News reporters.
Step one: To be verified as a journalist, your brand's Twitter account needs to be verified. OK, that seems easy: @plasticsnews has been up since January 2009, posting news every day, with more than 21,400 followers. So we went to Twitter, submitted some information and ran into a roadblock.
It turns out Twitter is like Hollywood and Washington, D.C.: You need connections to get things done. Twitter wanted three links from the past six months to PN from other, already verified news websites. Our stories are cited all the time, but finding three recent examples from an already verified brand wasn't easy. But my quick research took me on a trip down memory lane.
It was a 1990 Washington Post Lifestyle magazine story headlined "Give Plastic a Chance." The reporter, Jeanne Marie Laskas, went to a plastics convention in Washington and used it as an opportunity to poke a little fun at the industry. She mentioned The Graduate, of course, and a guy selling plastic coffins, and a boring-sounding conference session called "Fatigue Behavior of Reinforced Plastic Described by Hysteresis Measurements."
That's where, she wrote, "I saw men dozing. Really I did. These men had very wobbly moments, kind of like you did in history class — your head kept getting heavy, heavy, heavier, and, whoops! You almost lost it. Wake up!"
I've experienced that moment at plastics conferences.
There's a lot more funny stuff, so I enjoyed reading this long-lost mainstream media look at the plastics industry. The PN mention, which was why I Googled it in the first place, came where Laskas was describing her effort to find some wild-and-crazy plastics executives. She was unsuccessful, and the reason why came from Bruce Vernyi, one of our original staff reporters.
"You're dealing with engineers. You're dealing with MBAs," Vernyi told her. "These are not wild men. They're subdued. … Wild behavior is looked down upon rather than admired."
Closing my eyes, I can imagine Vernyi's voice when I read those words, in that funny story printed less than a year after PN published its first issue.
The story didn't fall within the "past six months" requirement for Twitter, but I loved it anyway. In the early days of PN, getting mentions like that from the Washington Post was the equivalent of today's blue check mark. Credibility, clout, legitimacy. We've had it since the beginning.
While we didn't include that particular story, we did submit some more recent media mentions to the Twitter blue check mark committee. Within seconds, we got back a message that looked a lot like a form letter. "We've reviewed your request to have your Twitter account verified. This account will not be verified at this time because the evidence provided did not meet our criteria for notability," it said.
I'm not going to let it bother me. I'm comforted by the wise words of Bill Bregar, one of Vernyi's colleagues from those early days of PN. For years, I tried to talk Bregar into opening a Twitter account, and he always replied: "Twitter is stupid."
Don Loepp is editor of Plastics News and author of The Plastics Blog. Follow him on Twitter @donloepp.