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Angry MobThe social media mob was out in force last week against a Greece teacher.

The American Sign Language teacher wrote words her students wanted to learn how to sign on her SMART Board. One of the students called out the word c–ks—er and the teacher wrote in on the board. Months after the incident, a parent posted a picture of it on her Facebook page.

A few days later, the teacher had resigned.

The parent was within her rights to post the picture. People were within their rights to comment and express their opinions. But I’m wondering if sometimes we let a social media frenzy dictate outcomes.

Maybe the teacher should have lost her job. There are things we likely don’t know. But I’m willing to bet she’d still be employed if the parent had privately approached school officials.

On Facebook and Twitter, people pick up their pitchforks and demand action. They want to KNOW SOMETHING WAS DONE. Did school officials react to the mob? Would they have taken the teacher complaint as seriously if it hadn’t gone viral and hit the news? Did social media perform a public service or commit a possible injustice?

We’ve see incidents go viral in Rochester before: the Greece bus monitor video, Craig Schaller’s LPGA blog, and the Muslim checkout line at Wegmans.

GigaOm’s Mathew Ingram wrote this about the woman fired from her job after a terrible tweet about AIDS and Africa:

With tools like Twitter and Facebook and the focus on real-time news, a single comment or bad joke or moment of poor decision-making can quickly escalate into an international incident. But is this kind of behavior a good thing? Is this how we encourage positive social values now? Or is it just a faster and more modern variation on the ugly mob?

At what point does the behavior of those responding to the offence become more offensive than the original comment, or at least out of proportion to it?

Is there a way to get the benefits of this kind of public shaming without it going overboard and becoming a mob with pitchforks? That’s hard to say. But we seem to be getting more and more chances to get the balance right, so perhaps we will figure it out eventually. I hope so.

I’m worried we no longer accept two words that used to symbolize an effort to learn, heal and show good faith: “I’m sorry.”

Links of the Day:

 

– Give the RCSD $325 million to rehab schools. What could possibly go wrong? Turns out a lot. In a report clearly showing the media was asleep at the switch for two years, the Democrat & Chronicle uses audits to expose overspending and mismanagement of the Facilities Modernization Plan. For example. principals were allowed to change work orders after projects went out to bid.

– Drop the kids off at school. Go fly a drone. Maybe pull the trigger. The Niagara Falls Air Base has a new, controversial focus.

– By cracking down on prescription pills, the government pushed people to heroin. It’s a big War on Drugs blunder.

– “Libraries have become bustling community centers where talking out loud and even eating are perfectly acceptable.” Libraries are more popular than ever.

Dear Roc Royal,

I had never heard of you until your music group, Mindless Behavior, took over a Twitter hashtag that’s important to my fair city.

Apparently, you’ve had a birthday (Happy Birthday), you’re living life to its fullest and you think you have a way with the ladies. That’s very nice.

The problem is all of your followers retweet you thousands of times, clogging up the #ROC Twitter feed. This is an important feed to Rochester residents. While some Rochesterians tweet about what they ate for lunch (garbage plates, naturally), other people tweet news, information, pictures and items of interest to the broad community.

In addition to breaking news, we need this feed to know if it’s raining, if there’s traffic, if there’s an earthquake (it happens), if there’s a new exhibit at MAG, if my favorite restaurants have specials and if the mayor said something funny today (he does that on occasion).

I realize there’s no way to legally register a hashtag. If we could, Rochesterians would have a good case.

1. We were here first. The first settlers came in 1812.

2. Our airport’s code is ROC.

3. Our daily newspaper has 1,245 sections that start with ROC.

4. The first three letters of Rochester start with ROC.

5. The names of all new businesses and young professional groups start with ROC.

6. You may have more followers than we have residents within city limits, but we kick your butt when you include the entire Rochester region.

7. We rock.

Thank you for consideration.

Sincerely,

Rachel Barnhart

P.S. Can you pass this on to Mariah Carey, who named her son Roc and some guy named Freestyle? Thanks again!

A city bar owner was tell me about a conversation he had with his friend, a fellow bar owner. They agreed business is down. The bar owner’s friend blamed social media. “Everyone is on Twitter and Facebook. They don’t have to come out to find out what’s going on in each other’s lives. They know everything already.”

I have certainly spent a few Friday nights home playing on Facebook and Twitter, but the reasons had more to do with being tired or broke than not wanting to see my friends in person. A good snowstorm will force a night of Words With Friends, too.

Social media tends to be a mechanism for people to make plans to go out, not the opposite.

I asked people on Twitter their thoughts.

Links of the Day:

Media

– Journalists reflected on the state of their craft when false reports of Joe Paterno’s death surfaced. A Penn State community news site got it wrong. CBS reported the information without double-checking or even attributing the information.

Some journalists blamed Twitter and glory-seeking reporters for jumping the gun. I do not. As fast as false reports spread on Twitter, they are debunked. That doesn’t mean mistakes are okay, but bad info won’t linger for long. Furthermore, errors in reporting happened well before the days of social media.

Most every journalist on Twitter retweets credible news outlets without personally checking the information. I attribute reports by naming the outlet and/or including a link. If I suspect there’s a problem with the information, I will say it’s not confirmed or simply not pass it along. Andy Carvin at NPR has made a career out of crowdsourcing information he has not verified on Twitter. This is the nature of Twitter – sharing and finding information.

Let’s face it – journalists aggregate all day long, whether they’re on Twitter or not. Every newsroom in town uses Associated Press wires, national networks and CNN. We cite reports from the New York Times and Wall Street Journal. We also see work from local competitors, verify it and report it as our own. Twitter makes this process much more transparent, warts and all.

Tech

– We tend to think jobs go overseas because of wages. A devastating piece in the New York Times on Apple suggests that’s simply not true. IPhones are made in Asia because of skilled workers, flexible factories and access to supply lines.

– People hate touch keyboards. iPhone-lovers tell you they can type just as fast, but studies show that’s not true. All Things Digital has a great look at how engineers are trying to create the perfect modern keyboard.

– Cell phones only last about a year, but most of us can’t get an upgrade for two years. There’s a movement to rethink those contracts and lease phones instead of buy.

Kodak

– The Democrat and Chronicle calls on Kodak CEO Antonio Perez to talk to the media.

– Kodak used to be a sports marketing giant.