by Bill Johnson (firstname.lastname@example.org)
I had my first real problem with Twitter yesterday.
I love Twitter. I love the immediacy. I love the interaction. I love the information that I get.
Yesterday, someone Tweeted that a certain local celebrity had a girlfriend. A married local celebrity. The Tweet was written very matter-of-factly and sent out to the world.
I'm not naive.
I understand that powerful people have relationships outside of their marriages, along with not so powerful people. I've been privy to conversations regarding these relationships with people that would know what's true and what isn't.
I'm not discounting the source of the person on Twitter. The Tweet was in all likelihood true.
The question is from an ethical standpoint, do you send the Tweet?
I have a number of friends that are writers, but I don't always agree with them. I think their has been a culture of arrogance and superiority passed down from generation to generation by writers since they first put ink to paper. They have a gift, and they let you know it. Doesn't mean they aren't good people. Most are.
Writers also see themselves as protectors of the facts. In the past, journalists would keep the personal lives of their subjects out of the news. The era of TMZ and Deadspin has ended that to a degree, but even those places are reasonably responsible and run by professionals.
On Twitter, you can say anything you want.
"Bill Johnson has a superfluous third nipple."
Not true, although it would be kind of cool to be like Scaramanga.
Anyway, anyone in the world could tweet that I have a superfluous third nipple. What can I do about it?
Well, I guess I could deny it. I could post a bare chested photo of myself, sickening most of the third world and Asia. I would have physical proof.
"Bill Johnson has a girlfriend."
What could I do then?
Deny? Oh yeah, you better believe it. How can I prove it? What if my wife starts to question me? What do I say to my family? There is no picture that I can just hold up to prove that it isn't true.
Confront my accuser? Here's the problem.
My accuser could have already closed their Twitter account and moved on. It happens all the time. Just think about all of those tweets that you get about laundering money for the President of Barundi.
Even if he/she still is on Twitter, does he/she have any legal motivation to Tweet the truth or , more importantly, not Tweet lies?
In traditional journalism, I could bring litigation if I thought I had been slandered. Can that happen on Twitter?
What if it's true?
Ever since I started working in sports media, rumors have always swirled about affairs. Players, coaches, announcers; and many of those rumors are true.
The beat writers and media that regularly cover the team know the rumors are true, yet they are not reported. Why?
Many reasons, first of which it has nothing to do with the story. Of a career .300 hitter mysteriously hitting .265 you might hear "Maybe if he went home at night..." but the suspected reason will rarely be reported. In Brett Favre's case, his dalliance with Jen Sterger became a part of the story because there was the potential for suspension. In most cases, a players after hours activities have no bearing on the story.
Also, to effectively cover the team, a beat writer needs to be trusted to a certain point. Keeping an affair out of the public eye is a way to gain that trust. Maybe down the road it will help with a story that matters.
Entertainment has always had a place for this type of thing. As difficult as it must be for a celeb to have a story like this appear somewhere like The Enquirer, it is taken in the proper perspective when it appears there.
I suppose if it's just some jabroni on Twitter it's the same thing. It's just one among millions and should be taken in that context.
I just wish that people could use some decorum when discussing the personal life of a celebrity, especially one with children.
What good does it do you or anyone to Tweet "(insert married celeb here) has a girlfriend?"
Do you make money? Does it make you feel important?
What does it do?
Nothing or nothing but harm.
Doesn't sound worth it.
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