Wondering Out Loud

Terry Moran called for illegal Tweeting

President Obama called Kanye West a jackass. I saw it on Twitter so it must be true. And Politico reported on it here. Considering what he did to Taylor Swift on Sunday night, I agree with the president: Kanye West is a jackass.  But that’s not why we’re here today.

What Terry Moran of ABC News did is inexcusable. He, or one of his staff with access to his Twitter account, sent an off the record comment across the web at light speed as casually as one might lean in to the person next to them and whisper “Psst. The president just called Kanye West a jackass.”  To call this an ethical lapse is an understatement.

This is not the same as the many “open mic” incidents that have occurred over the years with politicians, celebrities and pundits unknowingly giving us a glimpse into their true feelings. Off the record comments are commonplace and credibility is the lifeblood of any journalist. Moran broke a trust with the president and his credibility deserves to suffer for it.

There are still too many people who fail to understand the power of the internet. Who can’t grasp the simple concept that once you’ve sent a message it is A) no longer yours and B) cannot be retrieved. You can usually tell these people by the photos of last weekend’s party posted they posted on Facebook.

If we are going to be trusted to use the tools Web 2.0 has placed at our fingertips, our mindsets and how we think about ourselves in the grand scheme must evolve. With so many people having access to vast amounts of information, it’s human nature to take the occasional “scoop” and run with it before thinking about the consequences. Recent history is replete with examples of news organizations that ran with stories that were ultimately proven to be false. Granted, Moran’s tweet is not false, but it was off the record and it’s not like he revealed it to his mother during a friendly chat. No, he was talking to his 1,066,522 followers. Talk about the power of distribution.

You’ve heard of the Chaos Theory - aka Butterfly Effect? The Internet takes the theory and multiplies the effect by a factor of infinity. There’s a lot of power in those characters, all 140 of them, and Moran, or one of his colleagues, misused it.

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September 15, 2009 - Posted by | Journalism, Social Media | , , , ,

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