Monday, July 6, 2009

Tell Me Again, What is so Dangerous About Social Media?

Ah, the good old days of "old journalism". I've been thinking a lot about the nostalgic view of traditional media and how good it was recently. And, no, this has nothing to do with Michael Jackson, Farrah or the Governor of South Carolina.

One of my clients, United Space Alliance (the Space Shuttle's Prime Contractor) found itself responding after a local television reporter from Orlando claimed NASA was investigating sabotage by Shuttle workers as the cause for recent Shuttle launch delays caused by hydrogen leaks.

The story claimed that since the Shuttle is being retired in 2010 and Shuttle workers will lose their jobs at the end of the program, that workers might be doing things to delay launches so that they can keep their jobs longer.

It was the kind of story for which my broadcast journalism professor would have given me an "F." And, it was done by a mainline television reporter for a network affiliate station with about two decades of experience covering the Space Program. No bloggers, Facebookers, Tweeps or citizen-journalists were involved.

Seriously, it takes a “real” journalist to do a story this dumb.

There were facts in the story. Yes, there is this thing called the Space Shuttle and yes, several recent launch attempts were scrubbed because of a hydrogen leak. That's about it.

NASA immediately knocked the story down with a statement, as did United Space Alliance. Not only did no one suspect sabotage, there was no investigation of anything close to it. What NASA and USA were doing was trying to find the cause of the hydrogen leak and take standard precautions to prevent harm to the vehicle on the pad.

The reporter did a follow-up piece about their story "hitting a nerve with people on the Space Coast."

"Hitting a nerve" is reporter-speak for "covering my ass."

Miles O'Brien (Former CNN Space reporter/anchor and the best in the business) wrote a killer piece examining the story and just how absurd was the suggestion of sabotage. The comments section of the TV station's Website got so many negative comments from the first story that they turned off the comments for the follow-up story. A cowardly response in my view. Journalism is all about speaking truth to power. Unfortunately, many journalists and their organizations don't like it when people want to speak truth to them.

By the way, NASA figured out that a misaligned part caused the leak (I'm as shocked as you are that it wasn't sabotage!) and rescheduled the launch of Space Shuttle Endeavor for July 11th at 7:39 EDT. You can watch, listen and participate in the experience of the STS-127 the launch with Miles O'Brien and the team at

Or you can get half the story (or less) from traditional media.

I know where I'll be.

For the record, the Shuttle workers I know would give THEIR LIVES to protect the SHUTTLE and its crews. So who came to the rescue? Who defended the Shuttle workers (besides NASA and USA)? It was citizen-journalists. The Bloggers, Facebookers and Tweeps.

You know, all those people that make Social Media so dangerous.

Bill Salvin

Photo Credits: NASA Photos/Jack Pfaller (first two pics)

1 comment:

  1. Great article makes me crazy how the media (for lack of a more definitive term) jump all over the smallest (and often unsubstantiated) information and turn it into the proverbial doesn't matter if it's idle musings after a three martini lunch or due to boredom on a slow news tiny fact ....grows to a conspiracy theory and more....i.e., Michelle Obama wore white to the DD memorial - horrors! we are shamed forever in the eyes of the world...and on and on and on....I feel like the current motto is "if it's a slow news day - make something up, anything" can these people call them selves investigative journalists? gossips maybe, but not Woodward and Bernstein....just my .02..