The creation of a lobster emoji was the main topic over lunch for NBC News correspondent Harry Smith and U.S. Sen. Angus King, I - Maine, Oct. 21 at Robinson’s Wharf. Smith traveled from New York City to interview King about the senator’s efforts promoting Maine’s lobster industry by adding the red crustacean to the estimated 2,600 emojis created by the Unicode Consortium.
The California-based consortium is responsible for establishing a computing industry standard for the consistent encoding, representation and handling of text expressed in most of the world's writing systems. The consortium is adding 56 emojis between now and January, and King wants lobster to be one of the new symbols available for texts, instant messaging and emails in 2018.
Earlier this year, King sent an email to Unicode advocating for a lobster emoji. His office also sent out press releases to local and national news outlets advocating for one. One of those emails, seen by a NBC News producer, prompted Smith’s interview.
The two dined at Robinson’s Wharf over a lobster dinner, corn on the cob, steamers and an Eli’s Homemade Root Beer. The interview lasted an hour while the two discussed King’s efforts. The consortium has 75 candidates for emojis and is expected to narrow the field for a social media election later this year, according to King.
There are already crab, octopus, shrimp and squid emojis. King is hoping his efforts will spur Mainers and others to vote on social media to select lobster as a new emoji. He said it would promote the Maine lobster industry which he touts as being a $500 million industry for 6,000 coastal Maine families.
“If it helps sell some lobsters, I’m for it,” King said during the Oct. 21 NBC Nightly News segment.
Smith came to Southport after the NBC News Bureau in New York City received King’s press release which caught news producer Eric Salzman’s attention. Salzman has been to the Boothbay region three other times, producing features on national champion miniature golfers Pete and Nancy Gilchrist, Ann LePage working as a McSeagull’s waitress and Coastal Maine Popcorn owners Paul and Julie Roberts using a bill-paying service called bill shark.
The story of a Maine senator advocating for a lobster emoji was too good for Salzman and Smith to ignore. The two typically receive hundreds of press releases regarding the federal budget or health care issues.
“This was different. It was hip and cool and a little tongue in check,” Salzman said. “I showed it to Harry (Smith) and next thing you know we’re off to Southport.”
Earlier in the day, Smith went fishing with local lobsterman Nick Page, who was also shown in the segment.
Salzman has a local connection to the Boothbay region. His wife, Sara Rosen, is from Boothbay, and Sara’s mother, Linda Wacholtz, lives in Boothbay.
NBC News asked King about being interviewed during a lobster lunch and the senator recommended Robinson’s Wharf.
“This is a beautiful place and it would be like a postcard seen by 4-5 million people on NBC News,” King said about selecting the Southport restaurant.
NBC News also has another Maine connection. Nightly News Executive Producer Sam Singal is from Bangor.