Tom Murphy – Murphy's Law

Tom Murphy blogging about PR and other things since 2002…

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Can you stop taking credit for everything?

October 31st, 2008 · 7 Comments · Social Media

So to get you all up to speed on the subject of this post (especially those living outside the UK), two “comedians” on the BBC have gotten into hot water for a prank call (in poor taste) on a radio show.

CaptureInitially there were a small number of listener complaints but some UK newspapers (potentially with an axe to grind) wouldn’t let the issue drop and their continuous coverage of the issue brought matters to a head. 

Subsequently Russell Brand has resigned and Jonathan Ross has been suspended.

Listening to the analysis of the snafu as it developed – and the role the national press played – the thought occurred to me how long would it be before the usual suspects started claiming that in a Trent Lott-like development somehow social media has caused the issue to come to a head.

It didn’t take long.

People are now claiming that social media was central to the whole affair. 

Eh not it wasn’t.

This need to justify social media’s central role in everything that happens, is at best unappealing.

The world is a crazy, mixed up place. It’s far more complex that many people seem willing to accept, which is why the simplistic and naïve view of social media being the death knell of traditional media (and everything else that pre-dates 2002) is misguided.

For the immediate future we’ll see social media and traditional media living alongside side each other, sometimes operating independently, sometimes together.

But let’s be grown up and stop trying to give credit where it’s not due.

There’s enough hype out there already…

Supplemental:

If someone advanced the argument that the traditional media got this issue into the mainstream and that social media fanned the flames by providing access to the footage in the studio and fostered online debate, I’d absolutely buy that. But then that’s all about the integration of traditional and new media.  That’s what we’re talking about :-)

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7 Comments so far ↓

  • Sarah Gillingwater

    You’re right Tom, and although I did make the point here that new media had a large role to play in perpetuating the issue (enabling tens of thousands of people to see the incident via a webcam on YouTube for example) I agree that the traditional media have been flogging it to death (no pun intended Georgina Baillie…) too.

  • Stephen Davies

    Completely agree. It is/was completely tabloid driven with a few nudges here and there from online.

    Social media’s biggest role in all this was it provided people with an easy way to lodge a complaint on the BBC website – hence why the Beeb received thousands of them.

    I use the term social media loosely here though because asking for “Your Views” via the BBC website doesn’t exactly make it social. Newspapers have been asking for their readers’ opinions for many years. Online just makes it easier than writing and posting a letter.

    So, yep, social media might have fanned the flames but the big media outlets lit the fire and pored petrol all over it.

  • Stuart Bruce

    Absolutely. A similar case was when the petitions started on the Downing Street website and a petition against road charging received hundreds of thousands of signatures. Driven by social media they said. Actually no most came from a direct link on the traditional mainstream media website of the Daily Mail.

  • Kerry Gaffney

    But social meda is the future! The PR and newspaper industries are both dead men walking or least certain parties would lead us to believe.

    But I agree, we need to grow up and give credit only where and when it it is due, otherwise we’re doing ourselves a disservce. Both mainstream and social media have their role to play, nothing is better than the mainstream for raising mass awareness and nothing is better than social media for finding niche audiences.

    One interesting point is that while over 35,000 ppl have complained in real life, on facebook the vast majority of the 400+ groups set up about on this topic are in support of Brand and Ross.

  • Tom Murphy

    @Sarah: LOL, yes I agree with you, but it was traditional media to kept the issue burning.

    @Stephen: I think the term “social media” by design is pretty fast and loose :-) And I agree, the fact people can just go online and post their compliant probably drove higher complaints.

    @Stuart: No change there then :-)

    @Kerry: I think your point on Facebook is very interesting, the majority of the online audience seem to run counter to the traditional media, that’s interesting itself.

    @All: There’s no question that social media had a big part in driving the issue and sustaining it. Without tools like YouTube you would have found it hard to hear the episode for yourself and I also completely agree that online tools also made it easier to post your complaint!

    But I think this is a great example of how issues continue to be influenced by traditional and social media.

    TM

  • Damien Mulley

    Do you actually have a link where this claim is being made? This “some people are saying” type rhetoric makes you sound like you’re reacting to chatter on the wind.

    Actually as it happens the first I heard of this entirely bogus claim was at an IIA event today where Neville Hobson suggested it. I argued strongly against that idea. A week when the papers wanted something other than financial woes, they went for the old reliable. Glenn Hoddle all over again.

  • Tom Murphy

    Damien, I am hurt and upset that you’d think I would be using rhetoric LOL. :-)

    I’ve read it in a load of places actually, I don’t have any of the links with me as I type but it’s been a popular UK meme for the past week which is what motivated the post. In fact I dropped a number of comments on various blogs about the matter.

    I think this is a good example of the integration of traditional and online media. That’s where we’re at today.

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