It's no secret that we've tried over and over to get Jim Thomas of the Post-Dispatch to respond to fan questions about the Rams and the NFL on Twitter ... with no results. It's frustrating for Rams fans wanting to get a closer look at the team by interacting with the local newspaper's only beat reporter for the team. His interactions with readers have been limited to weekly chats on the clunky STLToday platform (and there's rarely a link on the main Rams page when those are happening).
We're not the only ones to have noticed.
Grievance aired to @jthom1: part of your job as the city's lead Rams beat writer is to engage fans. You have zero @ replies. Ever.— Matt Sebek (@MattSebek) December 23, 2013
Actually, Sebek is wrong. Thomas has replied SEVEN times during his Twitter history. And there are signs that it could be changing.
With roughly 17,500 followers on Twitter, Thomas could really be the go-to social media presence for Rams fans.
Why do we care? Well, let's let Thomas himself explain:
"Unlike some 'modern' writers, I actually attend practices, attend games _ home and away _ interview players, coaches, etc.. _ make phone calls. That takes time."
You see, with all that access, he's got a lot more to offer fans on top of what can be squeezed into the handful of Rams stories struggling Lee Enterprises can or will put into its largest metro daily paper. It'd be a great way to share that insight with his hungry readers who can't get enough Rams talk.
But credit where credit is due: he's figuring it out, because he's actually sending out some replies on his flip phone now.
@Dave_Matter You just hurt my feelings, Dave!— Jim Thomas (@jthom1) February 23, 2014
And that's it. One reply to the PD's Mizzou beat writer (who does respond to tweets) and another to a crony in the NFL media.
There were also a few replies over the summer ... limited to other media members and players.
@BigGame81 Johnson also looks very smooth and comfortable fielding punts. He's backing up Tavon Austin there.— Jim Thomas (@jthom1) July 28, 2013
There was one more reply:
@MooseNation69 Is this your pro wrestling debut?— Jim Thomas (@jthom1) July 30, 2013
Progress? Kind of?
Thomas once explained why he doesn't reply to readers and followers on Twitter:
My phone isn't hooked up to take Twitter questions. I'm thinking about changing it. But keep in mind, not every writer has a weekly 2-hour chat for about 45 weeks a year.
But apparently it was and has been hooked up. That was an answer in one of his chats, from Jan. 14, 2014. Maybe his phone isn't set up to take "Twitter questions" from the public? I'm not sure about Twitter's settings for taking "questions."
Oh wait, I almost forgot, there's a sixth reply on JT's timeline ...
More signs of progress emerged Wednesday. Thomas sent out his first Twitter reply to a Rams fan, well, second, but this one was more genial than the last and showed a greater understanding about the power of social media.
@scothoffman Doing great, thanks for asking.— Jim Thomas (@jthom1) March 5, 2014
Well, well, well ... this is a very positive sign for Rams fans. But what happened? He got some help.
Alright, so keep this in mind with free agency starting next week and the draft right around the corner. This could be a very positive thing for Rams fans. Until then, there's always Tony Softli -- the only other member of the city's sports media that covers the Rams on a regular basis -- and he's better about talking to fans on Twitter.
Why make a big deal out of it? Twitter and the rest of the tools offered by the web 2.0 and social media revolution are now the biggest part of how we consume media today. Thomas and Softli are the two people most responsible for crafting the local and national perception of this team. It behooves them to be where their audience is.
Welcome to the fold, JT, and be sure to let us know if we can help with all this social media stuff.