Use of social media is at its saturation point.
From the tech-savvy teenager to the blue-haired baby boomers; texting, tweeting, Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Digg, Google, Ask, Mozilla, etc. have come to deliver our information with the velocity and power of a lightning bolt.
In the recent past, we have seen the so-called, social media experts expounding upon their hypotheses for communications of the future.
They are preparing the arrangements for the death of the print media-the “traditional” media, in my opinion.
No more newspaper or news magazines. If you want it in print, you will have to go to a website and print it off, but really; will it be the same? Hardly!
It used to be that, if there was important, breaking news, TV programming was interrupted with a news bulletin or a special edition of the newspaper would be printed and delivered.
And if you were reading it in print, it was already HOURS old.
But today; you can get it as it is happening-streaming, live video shot from helicopters and drones. Media people are imbedded with police, fire, EMS, military, politicians, religious cults, drug cartels, despot governments, porno industry, human traffickers-you name it!
All that you need is a camera phone and presto; you just went “viral” on YouTube. Hollywood, here I come!
There are endless websites with a full menu for whatever titillates you.
I grew up on Rolling Stone, National Lampoon and Mad magazines.
They were as far from “mainstream” as you could get. They were both counter-culture and pop culture.
In its early years, Rolling Stone was heavy on music and music personalities, mixed with some political activism that wasn’t so much anti-war as it was pro-peace.
National Lampoon magazine was a favorite of mine for its political satire which was simply outstanding.
Mad magazine was pure escapism and hilarious; pure nonsense, yet relevant.
From Hunter S. Thompson to Dotson Rader, Rolling Stone pioneered a more liberal interpretation of freedom of speech for us. They pushed the bounds, used expletives unabashedly but not obscenely and widened the scope through which many of us view our own activism to this day.
Rolling Stone was everything that Look, Life and the Saturday Evening Post magazines weren’t. It was like James Dean vs. Beaver Cleaver!
You could not view Rolling Stone in the same way as any other magazine. It was, in a word, “cool”…and relevant. If you weren’t reading it, you weren’t keeping up with what was happening, cool and hip. From shaping your musical tastes to the clothes that you wore to your political views, Rolling Stone was immensely influential.
When they changed their focus sometime in the 1990s to broaden their appeal to younger readers, I stopped reading it. I felt that they had deserted our cause. It was like losing an old friend. They just weren’t relevant to me anymore and the death of Hunter S. Thompson took part of its soul and killed any desire by me to return.
Then BAM! They brought down a four star general (http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/17390/119236).
I mean; maybe they didn’t blow the lid off of Watergate or the Iran Contra affair, but their brutally honest and candid article on our top general in Afghanistan cost him his job!
But, when I say that the article that appeared in the Rolling Stone (http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/17390/119236) cost General McChrystal his job; that is not to blame the magazine…for the most part.
I want to believe that it wasn’t Jann Wenner’s (THE man at Rolling Stone) or Michael Hastings’ (the writer of the article) intent to take General McChrystal down, but when you have been around as long as Wenner and his Rolling Stone (1967), I have to think that Wenner had a smirk on his face as the July 8-22, 2010 issue went to press.
The July 8-22, 2010 edition wasn’t suppose to hit newsstands until Friday, June 25th, but the McChrystal article was already viral by Tuesday, June 22nd and by Wednesday, June 23rd, McChrystal was called to the White House, called on the carpet and stripped of his true calling for calling his boss, the President of the United States-and I am paraphrasing; uncomfortable, intimidated, uninformed, disengaged and a disappointment. Again, I am paraphrasing from a lengthy article that must be read in its entirety to get a real sense of it.
So, when I say that traditional media took down General McChrystal, you have to consider this:
In my opinion, the traditional relationship between the subject of the news story and news reporter builds from a synergy of comfort and confidence-of speaking freely; confident that the common sense of the interviewee will guide dialogue and the common sense of the interviewer will determine what goes or doesn’t go into the published article.
An added common sense safety valve is the editor-in-chief, whose very name and reputation rides on articles such as “The Runaway General”.
I have no doubt that McChrystal’s firing and subsequent retirement was yet another unintended consequence of our social media (See: http://www.firefighternation.com/profiles/blogs/social-medias-unintended), triggered by a traditional media interview.
Think about this: McChrystal was fired two days BEFORE the interview hit the newsstands!
Rolling Stone had already posted the story on the home page of their website by 10:00 am on Tuesday, June 22nd (http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/17390/119236).
I believe that when we are in the public’s eye, we must assume that NOTHING is “off the record”.
The tape is always rolling-be it audio or video. What we say or do will be sliced and diced, re-configured and publicized as a re-invented and re-incarnated skeleton of the factual body.
The McChrystal firing should serve as that reminder once again.
The story has re-ignited the debate over whether access by the press should be limited.
Naturally, the Media is opposed to ANY access limitations, but where they haven’t exercised good judgment in what appears in the finished product; why should they be rewarded with a front row seat to our news events?
Do you realize that, by today’s standards, very little live audio and video exists from World War II and even the Vietnam War and yet; VOLUMES have been written on both wars?
Our society has become so impetuous and impatient that we must have immediate gratification from our day’s events.
Is restricting free access restricting free speech? That’s open to debate.
Think for a minute of how damning and damaging a perceived inappropriate comment by a firefighter could be to your fire department if it were to be made public.
Do you think that there would be the added footnote that this is how some in our profession “process” bad stuff? Probably not.
Do you think that YOUR boss will react in a similar manner to General McChrystal’s boss? Probably so.
We want to watch “Rescue Me” with a wink-wink, but we want a public view of what we are to be akin to walking among the lepers, cursing those who sully our reputations with their bad behavior.
We want to project traditional values through non-traditional means. If we cannot pick and choose our media moments, then we at least have to stay true to our mission and if we must engage in the “off color or off handed”, then do so when no one else is around, take an oath to silence and a pinky swear, because if we don’t, we will be misinterpreted, misrepresented and misunderstood by a public who wants to believe that we are better than that.
And let’s face it; we exist in a culture populated by the weak and the strong, the passionate and the dispassionate and the sinners and the saints.
So, at the end of the day, you have to ask yourself if you want to be remembered for one blog, one Facebook comment, one YouTube video or one news article, because in today’s world, it won’t matter if you have four stars or four bugles…
It may be just enough to bring a career crashing down in the traditional sense!
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