Social Media and the Media

October 21, 2010
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“Washington Posts tells journalist not to engage on Twitter” reads a recent post on Mashable.  Apparently a staffer at the newspaper responded via Twitter to some comments made in regards to a recent controversial story. The details of which can be found in the Mashable post.

For the purpose of this discussion we’ll stray away from the content of the newspaper article and focus on the question of whether or not it’s bad practice for a media outlet to ban it’s employees (journalists, reporters, staff, editors, etc) from interacting with their followers (Likers, listeners, watchers, etc).

On the surface it appears to be a case of reverting back to days gone by when a media outlet’s audience couldn’t talk back.  Newspapers, magazines, television and other forms of traditional media have been able to filter the feedback from their audiences simply by giving (or taking away) their voice.  An unpublished letter to the editor of a publication is never seen.  A counter viewpoint expressed to a television station doesn’t air and thus is squelched.  The voice of dissent obfuscated.

That’s not to say dissent hasn’t seen the light of day.  But it could be disseminated, filtrated and dissected by an editorial board with the luxury of time.  That was then, this is now. Like it or not, social media removes those barriers.  It gives access to departments and personnel that were once closed.

Where once an opinionated reader/viewer could only shout empty words at a screen or tear a publication in hand, now they pick up their smart phone and dialogue with the media.  With this era being so new, some media outlets have yet to define the role of social media within their organizations whereas some are embracing it, experimenting with it and adopting it rapidly.  One wonders where the organizations that aren’t will be three years down the road.

Will the dialogue revert back to a monologue?  Will this usage ban of social media by the Washington Post squelch dissent?  Will it stop the messages from being sent to newspaper staff?  Highly doubtful.  In fact it could multiply and reverberate to the point where things go viral. Ask United Airlines about what it might do differently with this guy’s guitar: (9.3 million views)

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