Unraveling Social Media One Tool at a Time
“Moronic” “Idiots” “LAME”
These were just a few of the names we were called on the San Jose Mercury News Facebook fan page Saturday, when we posted the big summer Olympics news of the day: Michael Phelps placed a shocking 4th in a swimming event. They pleaded with us to post a “Spoiler” label or not post the news at all.
Others agreed with our decision to post the news as it happens, and told the fans:
“… Information flows in real time on the Internet. If you don’t want too see spoilers, don’t go online.”
There is no easy answer to this spoiler question. I do sympathize with our readers to an extent. Many of our tens of thousands of fans had planned to watch the tape delay of the Olympics on NBC Saturday night. Many of them wanted to pretend it was live and not learn the outcome until NBC showed it. It reminded me of the days I used to watch the Indy 500 on tape delay, avoiding the radio news all day so I could be surprised.
I had planned to watch the Olympics too, and learned of the Phelps flop while checking Facebook on my iPhone earlier in the day. Knowing the outcome, did take away some of the intrigue, and in the end, we watched a movie before the night’s broadcast was over. (Viewers such as myself dropping out like this, is something NBC should be worried about as it plans its next Olympics coverage).
But on the other side of things, this is news, and we are a news organization, and it is our job to report and post the news. We had discussed this question extensively in advance, and made a decision not to hold back on the news, and not to avoid posting it on social media sites. NBC may own the broadcast rights to the Olympics, but it does not own the coverage of the games.
Not all our readers, of course, are among those live-streaming the Olympic games or tweeting about it. And, nor do all of them agree with our definition of “news.” If there had been a bombing or tragic death at the Olympic games Saturday, and we posted the news, we would not be having this conversation.
Still, never has this question of how world events are covered and delivered to readers become so urgent. During the last Olympic games in Beijing. I had no iPad, and my iPhone was a new toy.
In the end, I am happy with our decision. The only thing I would have changed is that I would have warned our readers in advance about our policy with a notification on Facebook and our other social media sites. Meanwhile, we will try to be as transparent as possible about our decision-making, and we will try not to take it personally when we are called idiots for spoiling the games.