Monday, July 26, 2010

A Lesson for Media Pros

Here’s an important lesson for media professionals and those in the industries we serve. One of the professional associations I belong to has a listserv focused on telling the industry’s complex story through social media.

Many subscribers post often and they have strong views. Recently, they began reacting to a story in The New York Times based on work by a source with a strong negative point of view about this industry. The source’s work, which is slated to appear soon in a prestigious peer-reviewed journal, broke important news that wasn’t helpful to the industry.

Amazingly, several of the listserv members began attacking the journalist who reported the news. Some of the attacks were pretty scurrilous. Although a few of us defended this very good journalist, the attacks went on for nearly two weeks. What the members didn’t know was the journalist also subscribes to the listserv. (I didn’t know it either until he privately thanked me for defending his integrity.)

The journalist recently announced to the listserv members that he has been a subscriber since the listserv’s inception, that he reads all the posts and that he has taken no offense to the comments. But, oh my, how the tone has changed – and that’s a good thing.

The lesson: it is really easy to blow off steam on social media, but it’s also a looming opportunity to say things you ultimately regret. You don’t know who is reading your posts. So edit yourself before you post, and delete the words that could offend. After all, no matter how much we disagree on a topic, we ought to be able to discuss it with civility.

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