Facebook mistakes: The misogyny chapter

This is not a tale about the pitfalls of social media.

John Paton‘s “JRC Employee Rules for Using Social Media” are blank for a reason. There are no special journalistic rules for social media, just as there are no special journalistic rules for using a phone or email to pursue a story or engage with readers.

But ignorance and stupidity is ignorance and stupidity, whether on newsprint, a website or social media. If it happens in the process of “engaging readers,” though, expect the readers to point it out.

Last night, like many media outlets, NBC Connecticut asked readers for their take on the controversy around Rush Limbaugh’s offensive statements about a Georgetown law student. Except this is how they asked:

It got lots of “engagement,” more than 300 comments so far. But here’s what many had to say about it:

There are two possible explanations for the question: 1) An extreme Rush Limbaugh supporter works for NBC Connecticut, feels that calling a law student a “slut” and “prostitute” for using birth control is OK, and let that shape the question. 2) It was a ridiculously ham-handed attempt to appear “unbiased.”

But perhaps the real lesson as we learn how to use Facebook and other social media is that NBC Connecticut asked this question and then “left the room.” No participation in the discussion that followed, no further engagement. Maybe they don’t even know how ridiculous the question was because they’re not listening to the answers? If they are listening, why haven’t they responded with acknowledgement, apology, clarification, more questions?

Mistakes will happen. Another example from the realm of mainstream media misogyny on Facebook, also from last night:

It appears to be a case of an employee accidentally posting a personal status update to the brand page. (And in case you missed it, check out Steve Buttry’s post on guidelines for when and how to use an individual account vs. a brand account for the job.) It received many puzzled and angry comments before being pulled down about a half an hour later (when I called the Press Herald newsroom to give them the heads up).

Stupid mistakes will happen.

But if we’re in the habit of starting conversations and then leaving them, they can be magnified.


About mattderienzo

Matt DeRienzo has worked for more than 20 years as a reporter, editor, publisher and corporate editorial director and has been recognized nationally for leading newsroom innovation. He teaches journalism at Quinnipiac University, writes a monthly column for Editor & Publisher magazine, and serves as interim executive director of LION Publishers, a national network of local independent online news site publishers. Previously, he served as group editor of Digital First Media's publications in Connecticut, including the New Haven Register, Middletown Press, Register Citizen and Connecticut Magazine, and Northeast regional editor for Digital First Media. He also served as publisher of The Register Citizen, Middletown Press and a group of weeklies in Northwest Connecticut, and before that was corporate director of news for small dailies and non-daily publications for the former Journal Register Company. In early 2011, The Register Citizen was named one of Editor & Publisher magazine's "10 Newspapers That Do It Right," and DeRienzo was named to its annual "25 Under 35" list of leaders in the newspaper industry. In the fall of 2011, The Register Citizen was awarded the Associated Press Managing Editors Innovator of the Year Award in recognition of The Register Citizen Newsroom Cafe, an "open newsroom" launched in Torrington, Connecticut, in December 2010. He led a team of more than 100 journalists in covering the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in late 2012 and 2013, and has been honored for his editorial writing and leadership of public service and investigative reporting. In 2014, his efforts at the New Haven Register were recognized with the APME's and ASNE's Robert C. McGruder Award for Leadership in Newsroom Diversity. DeRienzo is a former longtime board member of the United Way of Northwest Connecticut, and served as co-chairman of the United Way's annual fundraising campaign in 2009 and again in 2011. In 2011, he received the organization's Lifetime Achievement Award.
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One Response to Facebook mistakes: The misogyny chapter

  1. I have nightmares about putting personal statuses up on the paper page. yikes.

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