Monday, April 04, 2011

Social Media Media.

I have angry-Tweeted about this topic several times in the past, and did so again this morning. I'd be interested to hear anyone's thoughts on the issue.

In my opinion there is a lot of coverage in the media about social networking privacy- raising awareness of the permanence of Facebook uploads, and warning prospective employees that their future bosses may be checking out their online lives. I have things published online which are a bit cringe-worthy, but nothing I'm particularly bothered or threatened by at this point in my life. My Facebook is locked to friends-only, but this is largely due to avoiding people from my past, rather than related to potential employment. In fact, being such a quiet person in real life and so terribly nervous during job interviews, I think it's an extremely positive thing if people looking to hire me check out my online presence- this blog included. It's definitely a short cut to getting to know me, which is why my real name is attached to it. (On a slight tangent, I think people also need to remember that the employment warnings can be flipped around the other way- whenever I land a job interview, I always search Facebook to see what the interviewer looks like, and see if I can find out what kind of person they are. Calms the nerves a little if nothing else!)

Another issue surrounding social networking privacy is a little less obvious, and seems to recieve little attention from the public. How much of what you post on Facebook should be used by the media, and should that change in different circumstances?

This is the latest example I have come across, where information from Facebook is used by the media, though it is a pretty minor instance. Unfortunately I don't have the time to trawl back through Tweeted links to other examples. Anyway, what irritates me about this article about the death of Blair Titmus is that they have used such fluffy information from his public status, just to bulk out the article a little more. Even though the information is attributed to Facebook, saying he was riding the motorbike he had recently built is just speculation- why include it? He could have several bikes, or have been riding one that was borrowed. The article itself says the investigation is continuing, so why include this at all?

My own most recent Facebook status mentions that I have run out of contact lenses. If I dropped dead tomorrow in news-worthy circumstances, with my profile set to public, would that be included in my article? What if I was hit by a bus? "Miss Jones was not wearing contact lenses, according to her Facebook page, and may not have seen seen the pedestrian signal." (I will be exta careful for the next few days, guys.)

A couple of past examples that really bothered me were a couple of different fatal road accidents. Media outlets quoted messages posted on the Facebook walls of the deceased, written by their loved ones. I don't even like the idea of quoting from Facebook memorial pages, but I think taking personal messages of grief from the page of the victim is extremely rude, unprofessional and just plain going-too-far. To me, it's like going up to a gravestone, and quoting from a letter left there for the deceased. Any member of the public could go and have a look if they really wanted to, but it doesn't need to be included in public articles.

From what I have seen, in some cases where impromptu memorials are created following newsworthy deaths, TV broadcasts will often show close ups of notes and messages left on boquets of flowers. Yes, it could be argued that this is similar to showing glimpses of messages left on Facebook pages, but I think the big difference though is that print media needs to attribute these quotes to a source, and so the writers full name, as displayed on Facebook, is often attached to the message.

What about criminals? Here's a link to one recent example I could recall- the mentioned Facebook profile was set to private, but the grainy thumbnail of the girl's profile picture was still used to accompany the story. Should that be allowed? Is it acceptable because she is guilty of a crime?

Should laws be imposed surrounding this issue, before it gets out of hand? Are media outlets going to become so intent on scooping the latest story with pics, that a Facebook profile photo will be used for murder victims, before an official one released by the family? Would you find that acceptable?

What do you think? Does this kind of lazy reporting ever occur in the publications either online or offline that you read? Should the general public have to think about what would be reported based on their online presence if they suddenly dropped dead? Or should the media be forced to stick to official reports and statements only?

Image source.

9 comments:

Kathryn said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

I think it's part of a wider social/media blur too - I HATE the current trend towards the token, irrelevant "one commenter on Twitter noted" additions to articles.

Problem is, I think it's up to the general taste/skill level of those doing the reporting. Probably not something we can effectively legislate against.

Life Of A Mombie said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

i enjoyed this..thank you

ana b. said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

I do find using sources like Twitter in the manner you described pretty distasteful. There was an article in the liftout of a Sunday paper about a woman killed in the Christchurch earthquake and the angle was basically, look at all the things we can learn about this persons' life through their Facebook status.

Whatever happened to actually going out and talking to the people who knew this woman? If they don't want to talk to media, it is for a reason. So taking it just from Facebook and Twitter feels grubby and a bit unfair.

On the flipside, knowing that these platforms can be used in this manner, should also make us a bit more aware of what we put out there.

Melisande said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

love this piece-- i enjoy reading your writing. i fully agree with you.
i would hate to think that if something happened to me, my facebook status was quoted, or my last profile picture was used...

♥ Nadine ♥ said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

I really think that in these cases the media should stick to official releases or whatever.

I mean, yeah. FB is not really private and intimate, but pictures/statuses or whatever shouldn't be used for questionable reports. I don't like that thought! At all.

I mean, wouldn't it be shocking for friends and family to see pictures of their loved ones in the media without their approvement - in any case.

Enough is engouh, I'd say.

Thanks for your thoughts, that made me think, too. :)

Courtney said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

I agree with you. I also think that using Facebook & Twitter is an example of extremely lazy journalism (another issue). In terms of status updates on protected accounts, clearly a "friend" or "follower" has leaked the info to the media, which is also yucky.
You quote "Miss Jones was not wearing contact lenses..." really made me laugh. Nice post.

Lauren said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

We've been learning about this kind of "churnilism" at college: using press releases and fluff to add to a story.
They're starting to discipline people in the workplace now for things people post on their facebook, which is really none of the boss' business. I'm friends with my mum on facebook, which keeps the things I post clean! x

rebekah dittmer said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Blair loved his motor cycles and had just finished building his bike. It was a big part of who he was. He was an amazing friend who will be missed.

Alice said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Hey all, thanks for your comments!

@Kathryn- I hate that too. Especially cnsidering Twitter has made it so easy to contact random (or well-known) members of the public to ask them for comment on a story. Just copy pasting their often flippant Tweets is lazy.

@Ana- Yeah I definitely think we need to be more aware of what we are posting on. I just feel too much emphasis is placed on considering your employment, rather than considering unexpected (and interest-stirring) circumstances.

@Melisande, Life of a Mombie- Thanks! :-)

@Nadine- Yes you're right about FB not being private and intimate- and that last word is definitely something that should be used more imo. "We" have turned into such oversharers imo (says the blogger heh)

@Courtney- Yeah I do wonder about protected accounts, and whether information from them is used. Hope nothing happens to me, I'm friends with quite a few journalists!

@Lauren- Yeah, we recently had discussions about 'social media' at work, and basically we all just don't add each other. At my previous job I became friends with all sorts of distant people involved in the company- they really use it as a networking system in that industry, rather than a place to stay in touch with friends. Definitely won't be accepting friend requests from future bosses!

@Rebekah- Thanks for your comment. Using the example of Blair's article in this post was definitely not with the intention of causing offence. I'm not sure whether I have, but I thought I would clarify that I know next nothing about his death, and reiterate that the point is; neither do the media. If they are quoting Facebook statuses to support theories, then whether they are correct or not is irrelevant imo. I just feel they need to stick to official information, and direct interviews. I had no doubt he loved motorcycles, I just feel that if they wanted to include that, the journalist should have taken the time to contact a friend or family member for comment, rather than paraphrase from Facebook. I'm truly sorry for your loss.