"Save Paula" Movement Floods Twitter

“You wanna do something good in your life? Start now and Save Paula,” read one typically overwrought post.

By Jere Hester
|  Thursday, Aug 6, 2009  |  Updated 6:56 AM EDT
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The TV drama played out online, in bites of 140 characters or less: Paula Abdul took to Twitter to announce that she’s leaving “American Idol.” Ryan Seacrest responded by tweeting his dismay.

Then the fans, trained by the most popular show in the land to exercise their right to pop culture democracy through phone calls and text messages, flooded Twitter with demands that FOXsave Paula.” The tweets, at some points Wednesday afternoon, poured in at several hundred a minute.

“You wanna do something good in your life? Start now and Save Paula,” read one typically overwrought post.

Another fan wrote: “Tweet this to all your friends if you want to SAVE PAULA on American Idol! Maybe Fox will listen!”

Probably not. There’s likely as much chance of her coming back as there is moving the lucrative “American Idol” contestant voting process from AT&T to Twitter.

But the deluge of messages displayed fans’ passion for a hit show that, after eight seasons, is a part of many folks’ life. The outpouring also marked another example of the power of Twitter to give a mass, instant voice to the public on issues ranging from the vital to the frivolous.

Along with the off-screen “American Idol” soap opera, other popular so-called trending topics on the microblogging service included former President Bill Clinton’s successful efforts to free two journalists held in North Korea, as well as the ongoing turmoil in Iran – a subject on which Twitter has proven a valuable source of information.

The presumably young “American Idol” fans devoted enough to cast nearly 100 million votes in the show’s most recent finals and dedicate their tweets to a quixotic effort to bring back Abdul may be getting valuable social media practice that could eventually be used for some greater good.

Or maybe the bring-back-Paula Twitter campaign is another sign of a shallow, celebrity-obsessed society that wastes too much time on meaningless pursuits when there are clearly more pressing issues in the world.

Adbul, as was her wont as an “American Idol” panelist, likely would take the less cynical view. But hey, who are we to judge?

Hester is founding director of the award-winning, multi-media NYCity News Service at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is the former City Editor of the New York Daily News, where he started as a reporter in 1992.

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