8/26/09

 

Richmond media roundup for week of August 27th: "We may all be in a conversation, but be aware you may be just as culpable."

Watched a sad local story blow up nationally today...

I volunteered for the Richmond SPCA when starting my business ten years ago. They were right down the street from our home at the time in Richmond's North Side, and, as I had no water cooler or company break room, I would go often at lunchtime to take a break and spend my lunch running the dogs there.

Many hours per week were spent in my "kennel clothes" (I kept them separate from the rest of my laundry - if you spend a lot of time in shelters you know what that smells like...) lifting big dogs I didn't know (yet) by myself down from the second tier of kennels, both of us struggling down from the combined weight to the concrete floor where they then stood impatiently ready to run (and did they run) with abandon outdoors in the field. (Or as much racing as you can do on a leash with a human attached...)

Back then, it was a decrepit-but-well-run shelter on Chamberlayne Avenue, before the SPCA moved later to it's new, nationally recognized facilities and became an admired model of achievement for shelters everywhere.

Today I watched the news that "SPCA EXEC KILLS DOG" blow up across the nation with a biased eye.
I wholeheartedly support the organization (they've saved over 20,000 animal lives since 2002, you?), I was a volunteer there, and knowing the staff and success of the organization, I support the Starr family; I knew the dog, Louie, that died.

I can not help but wonder...
Why was there such little mention of the SPCA's explanation in local new media?
One organization "just retweeted people's reactions" on twitter, turned around to defend its actions, yet never included the link in their twitter feed, just (as of last time I checked) spewed reactions from people who pretty much only knew, "SPCA CEO KILLS DOG IN HOT CAR."

(Later, much later, they said they included the SPCA statement on their website. But that's another channel, as outdated as the term is; It's another feed, and one which I did not visit that day. I WATCHED TWITTER. I want to know where their journalism was on TWITTER.)

Glancing at that voice today reminded me why I don't listen to that feed, as much as I like the product.
(Lesson for organizations: Encourage multiple staff to have voices, it's a good thing.)
So this week locally in Richmond media, we revisit journalism vs. "conversation", especially when the supposed journalists are "just re-tweeting" without including links they know present the voice of the organization debated.

It will be interesting to watch the pr, media, journalism, and legal debate that will certainly follow over the next week.

Just remember: She did not know a dog was in her car when she drove to work that morning. It was put there, elderly, docile, used to riding in cars, by a family member. How many times have you been doing yard work in your back yard, taken the wheelbarrow full of brush to the curb, only to have your spouse ask you something from the front door? Do you go inside, forgetting the unlatched gate? Did the pets get out? Did they get hit? Were you prosecuted? Did your spouse, not knowing you left the gate open, lose their job?

And to the "journalists" that happily fanned the flames?:
What is your new media responsibility as journalists?
We may all be in a conversation, you may have the "right" to throw out misleading information, but be aware you may be culpable.

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Comments:
Out of curiosity, do you think if they had told the story in a light that wasn't directed negatively at Robin Starr would you be making such a big deal? It seems as though your personal feelings for this matter are taking over and you are chastising Style for having an opposing opinion on the situation.
 
I *am* biased, but the two times I dipped into Style's twitter feed I saw re-tweet after re-tweet of negative posts similar to "CEO KILLS HER DOG" - no mention of the full story that the CEO didn't even know the dog was in her car. I knew they had that information, as I had sent them a link twice to the SPCA blog post where the full story was told.

That is what upset me - I think journalists on twitter should realize:

1. readers dip into your stream without seeing what you posted five pages back or later, forward and

2. by re-tweeting without a commentary on the post or a "discuss it here - www.xyz.com", a reader will most likely read that post as an endorsement of what was said.

When I asked Style why they would not mention the blog link, they responded,
"So what? Anyway, it's on our story online as I've said before. We are not obligated to link to stuff like that."

(http://twitter.com/StyleWeekly/status/3564663642)

I thought that response was flippant and dismissive, so didn't return to their feed (which I don't subscribe to anyway for this kind of tone, not just to the SPCA) so was surprised to get huge, long emails from Jason Roop the next day over this post. It seems he can feel not obligated to provide other sides of the SPCA tale in his twitter feed but feels I should absolutely revise MY post to say whatever he wants to say.

Most interesting to me is that this post wasn't just about a local print paper (although obviously from the copious words he sent, HE felt it was...) notice there are no local references in my blog graphics or post? That wasn't purposeful, those were the responses I was thinking about when I wrote; a much bigger media picture than our local weekly... so it's funny it all turned into a discussion over Style. The only reason I mention their name is because Jason Roop brought it up publicly, even harassing a coworker to have me contact him.

(Ironically, just a mere hours later, we were in the same room and he did not approach me. Funny how the internet gives bravado that does not translate to real life? Why didn't he just walk up and discuss this?)

Which leads into my next topic...
 
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