A great case study of the dangers of unsupervised journalism in the multimedia age.
The Post (my employer), as part of its ongoing 'Being A Black Man' series, planned a fairly honest, 1st person account of unemployment for last Sunday's Washington Post newspaper and website. On that Friday, however, an excerpt and several photos from the story were published in one of the Post's other newspapers, Express, which is given out free at Metro stops across the D.C. area. A firestorm ensued.
In short, the excerpt and the photos were chosen with no input from either the writer or the photographer and, in their opinion, did not reflect the true nature of the story. The subject hated what he saw, and the public response went way beyond anything expected.
People tried to give the subject money on the Metro (he was on the way to work at his new job), he was ridiculed by family and friends; even his mother got into it, leaving an open copy of Express on his bed telling him this was why she did not want him talking to the reporter.
Some 13th hour tap-dancing by the reporter, photographer and their editors (of which I am one) kept the subject from pulling his consent and the story ran, in its entirety, on Sunday.
Now boys and girls, what have we learned? That the reach, in this media-hungry age, of all our content is broad and that all of it matters. Also, we must pay equal attention to our promos...if they look like content, they will be treated as such by the public - we need to do the same.
Lastly, media organizations need to think about having editors whose sole job is work 'in between the seams'; to monitor the flow of content from one platform to another, making sure it has been fully vetted no matter where it's scheduled to appear.