In another example stunning example of the double-edged sword that is social media, a friend and former colleague of mine is under fire for something he tweeted during the Super Bowl. Roland Martin, a CNN Analyst, TV One Contributor and prolific tweeter, sent out this one, following the David Beckham commercial for H&M.
Those 22 words were the basis of a firestorm that shows no signs of abating with GLAAD, The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, being one of several groups calling for CNN to fire Martin.
But should they? Is it a termination-worthy offense? I’ll get back to that in a minute. But first, there’s something for everyone here, from those of us prolific in social media to those who think it’s going to go away.
For those who think it’s going to go away, I offer these facts:
- If Facebook were a country, it would be the worlds 3rd largest!
- Generation Y and Z consider email passe’
- eReaders have surpassed traditional book sales
- YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world.
And specifically related to the Super Bowl:
- There were nearly 16 million tweets and Facebook postings during the Super Bowl last night, up from just over three million over last year’s game.
- On average 10,000 people per second were tweeting about the Superbowl.
Last week, we saw very tangible evidence of social media’s heft when breast cancer charity, Komen for the Cure announced it was withdrawing its support of Planned Parenthood. It felt the full force of that focused and relentless power and after two days of the virtual onslaught, Komen reversed itself.
Now, that’s the lesson for those who are not well versed in this new way of communicating. For those of us who are, this Roland Martin dust-up serves as a crucial reminder. Some of us (and I mean ME) are the naturally, chatty types. We talk a lot in person, popping off with whatever is top of mind. Sometimes it feels like the same thing, as our fingers are dancing across the keyboard. The difference is, popping off with your friend over a glass of wine is a linear conversation; there is a short line between speaker and recipient. Unless someone is eavesdropping, there’s little chance the conversation will go much further. Not so with social media. Instead of linear, it’s exponential. And if it’s in print, pulsed from your handle, well, there’s little you can do to deny it came from you.
Which brings us back to the original question of whether Roland Martin should lose his job for the offending tweet. This is difficult for me because, as I said, I’ve known Roland for years. In my heart of hearts, I don’t really think he was advocating violence against gays as much as he was just trying to be funny. But this is no laughing matter and frankly, potentially dangerous given the number of hate crimes against gays (you can read my own position on sexuality here).
There are a couple of other things to consider here. Anyone who’s ever worked in TV news is familiar with the so-called “morals clause”; in other words, you cannot do anything, even in your private life, that would reflect badly on your employer. The other problem is when the messenger eclipses the message, and that may very well be the case here. CNN will now have to decide whether it wants to risk taking on the groups (and potentially losing viewers) now targeting Martin.
As someone who knows Roland, I’d hate to see him lose his job but honestly, I’m not sure how he’ll be able to keep it, given the growing intensity. But I’d also pull him aside and remind him of the power and reach of social media and in doing so, make sure that I practice what I preach.
So let me open it up to you. Do you think Roland Martin should be fired for sending that tweet or is just social media piling on? Lemme hear ya!