Hoist with their own petard

Main photo: Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, by Andrew Feinberg/flickr



If you’re anything like me, you probably have more than a passing acquaintance with Facebook and its various pages, profiles, likes and comments.

If you’re like me, you also like nothing more than seeing a deserving public takedown. Somewhat like what Jon Hamm, Jeremy Renner, Jonah Hill and Daniel Craig all had to say about the Kardashians, but with a bit more of a moral high ground as opposed to just being bitchy.

Now Facebook has become the new battleground for consumer and viewer anger, and nothing could make me happier. I first noticed it during the Olympics, when posts started popping up in my timeline letting Channel 9 know exactly what the majority of people with eyes, brains and a functioning ability to communicate effectively thought of the God-awful Olympics coverage they were crapping out. If it wasn’t just mind numbing re-showing after re-showing of Sally Pearson’s hurdles gold medal race. It was totally ignoring the last stages of the men’s Sailing 470 class gold medal race. (By the way, the Australian Sailing team was the most successful at this years Games. Bet you didn’t hear 9 say that.)

I’ve also seen Vodafone cop a hammering for obvious and telling reasons, Target get flamed for selling “tramp” clothing for children, Qantas panned for its crap-tacular service and dodgy handling of the grounding of aircraft, and Coles criticised for ripping off Australian farmers … while running ads saying they support them. And then there’s Kyle Sandilands.

But by far and away the most poignant and compelling of these Facebook Occupy movements has been the story of Linda Goldspink-Lord. Goldspink-Lord is the mother of Molly Lord, a 13-year-old teenager who died in a quad-biking accident on the family’s property in Kembla Grange near Wollongong on July 11. Goldspink-Lord claimed that as she sat next to the body of her dead child, a reporter from Channel 7, Paul Kadak, was on their property searching for someone to interview. While this was going on an Ilawarra Mercury photographer was taking photos using a telephoto lens, and the Channel 7 News chopper was buzzing the grieving mother as she sought solace with her daughter’s horse. All these claims were made in a Facebook post by Mrs Goldspink-Lord herself on Channel 7′s own Facebook page. A screen shot is below:

Channel 7 deleted the post. Although they have “publicly” apologised on their Facebook page, they did not contact Mrs Goldspink-Lord directly to discuss the issues she raised, or the conduct of their news crews on the day. The Illawarra Mercury also apologised for splashing a photo of a private and tragic moment all over the newspaper’s front page.

Five years ago this woman’s pain at the sensationalising of her daughter’s death would have been seen only in the letters column of a local paper or somewhere equally easily dismissed. Now she has the power to deliver a message that more than 30,000 other people read and endorsed, and countless others had undoubtedly seen, to spread her message as far as she could. It’s debatable that she will succeed in returning some civility, integrity and a higher level of professionalism to the practices of the major news networks. But using Facebook as a forum gained her exposure to a huge audience who could see in the Lords’ story the seedy underbelly of the Australian news media.

Social networking is a double-edged sword for institutions. If you’re not in touch with your viewers or customers it can make for a very uncomfortable experience. Frankly, I just enjoy watching them squirm when they are rightfully called to task for a shoddy job.

The people are speaking. Time for the institutions to listen.
Related podcast: The Triangle on STR – Are you addicted to Facebook?

One Reply to “Hoist with their own petard

  1. Great piece Nick, but could it be possible that social networks are just creating an expectant society. One that complains about the privilege many never have the opportunity to access let alone complain about? Could we not find a way to use social media as a more thankful and positive promotion. I wonder how often you see someone complimenting an institution for doing a good job in comparison to how often you see people whinging about it?

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