By Jason Menard
I remember many years ago – in the pre-Internet days — being upset when, despite all my efforts, my desire to remain blissfully ignorant of a World Cup soccer final result until I was able to watch my VHS-taped version was foiled.
I was playing softball during the game. We had banned radios both to and from the game. We were prepared to avoid all TV and radio reports so that we could get back to my home, rewind the tape, and watch the game.
All went well, until I was about one minute from my home. And then a gaggle of jubilant Brazilian fans poured out of the local watering hole.
I was upset about that then. I’m absolutely disgusted by the actions of certain media members as it relates to the on-line coverage of the Tori Stafford trial.
This is not to debate the merits of covering the trial. I’ve discussed my stance on this issue before, but I fully support the media for covering it. I understand why it’s necessary. I also believe we, in the public, have a right to choose how invested we get in the case.
Some local media outlets, such as AM980 and the London Free Press, have done a wonderful job with this. Nathan Smith explained his outlet’s stance in an excellent piece here.
These outlets have created dedicated Twitter feeds and Web sites that allow readers to opt-in to the coverage of the trial. On the main sites, they’ll summarise and post reminders about the full-coverage options, but they have chosen to leave the choice in the hands of the people for whom it should belong – the public.
Then there are others who have chosen to assume that choice on behalf of their followers. Sadly, the CTV London Twitter feed was one of those who continued to retweet several posts from their in-house reporter.
By not affording their followers a choice, these media outlets instead left the choice in the hands of the public. I made mine when I unfollowed that account.
Now, from a brand-building social-media perspective, it’s a terrible decision. I know a few people at CTV London and, overall, I think they’re really good people. I like them, I like what they bring to the community, and I’ll likely be back as a Twitter follower after the trial.
But why take that risk? I consider myself engaged with the local media, so I take an active interest in it. What about those who aren’t? What about those who follow them for local information? Might they not turn to a competitor in the interim?
And what if that interim becomes long-term? What if a Twitter fan defects because they find they enjoy a competitor’s coverage better? Is it worth the risk?
If a moral obligation to give your readers a choice isn’t enough, maybe crass commercialism can be a more effective motivator. And when it comes to social media, content is king.
If people stop liking your content, they’ll move on. When a value-added option for the consumer is so easy to do – like creating a dedicated feed separate from the main channel – why would you take the risk?
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The difference of having them on your Twitter feed than having them on Facebook or on message boards is that no matter what you do, you really cannot hide from it. WIth people retweeting posts, and responding to posts, it’s almost impossible to hide from. I have about 3200 people that I follow and I swore that at least 500 were commenting and retweeting yesterday. I have all the media outlets on my Twitter. I closed down #Rafferty earlier that day. STILL, one major news network fell through the cracks in my plight to avoid the posts. I forgot to unfollow them.
All in all, the words of a child suffering (you know what I’m talking about) should have never been disclosed online. That one line of what she was begging him not to do MAY have been required exposure in the court room but certainly did not need to be shared with the world. We need not hear that graphic detail on the news last night because at that point careful consideration was taken what to publicize.
I think every word should be published and the public made to take heed. Hiding from the rape, torture and murder that Victoria endured at the hands of those two monsters might make it easier to sleep, make us forget there are people that should not be allowed to exist on this earth, but that is all it does. We need to have capital punishment brought back for such crimes, and I am hoping this trial will be the catalyst that does just that. I think people who are against capital punishment should especially have to read and listen to every detail so they can empathize with the victim, their family, and the many other families who have had to endure the murderer of their child being kept alive to torture them for the rest of their lives.
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