NO ONE is in charge of social media.
The millions of simultaneous conversations ARE the story, and no matter how big of a loudmouth you are, you will fail trying to artificially insert yourself into the conversation.
Yet every now and then, those social media loudmouths go too far, say the wrong thing, and get shouted down – in very public and appropriate ways – for their ridiculousness.
Yesterday was a perfect example.
Perhaps you saw Kenneth Cole’s outrageous tweet – trying to make his spring collection relevant among all the chatter around the dire situation in Egypt.
It was a huge failure. Embarrassment ensued, and Twitter Nation jumped all over Cole, who removed the tweet and has since apologized. But Cole’s reputation is damaged – perhaps permanently – for his social media insensitivity.
In sports, the stakes are usually a lot lower than politics, current events or a host of other much more important topics. And rightfully so. But when something happens in social media that affects the lives and future livelihoods of 13 young athletes, it becomes a different story.
Yesterday, we also saw a social media reaction that was less public than the Kenneth Cole/Egypt fiasco, but one that landed much closer to home for me.
Dennis Dodd, a veteran college football reporter for CBSSports.com, made some comments on Twitter about the controversy surrounding the Iowa Hawkeyes football team and the hospitalization of 13 of its players following a vigorous postseason workout.
While the players were recovering at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, some employees there illegally and improperly accessed player medical records – presumably out of curiosity or perhaps in an effort to provide private details to the media. No one really knows for sure.
Dodd saw blood in the water, and an opening to insert himself into the Iowa story and perhaps keep it fresh.
“If these hospital staffers leaked information that is, in THIS case, a good thing. The public deserves to know,” Dodd’s first tweet on the subject read. He continued in a follow-up tweet: “I can’t speak for HIPPA [sic] violations or medical ethics but if the leaked info we know more now that we did a week ago. That’s a good thing.”
A good thing? Let’s examine this from a legal standpoint first. Those health care workers potentially violated the Federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) by illegally accessing electronic medical records.
If you haven’t heard much about HIPAA, know this: It’s a big deal if you work in a hospital – in any role.
I know. I was working in media relations/communications – at that very same hospital (University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics) – when HIPAA was implemented. There were detailed and serious training sessions – by everyone. And the consequences of accessing or sharing private patient data are severe.
Ask the three UIHC employees who lost their jobs over this just how severe. I feel for my former UIHC colleague, Tom Moore, who has had to clean up from this mess.
Yet Dennis Dodd still didn’t get it. The story was over. But he must have thought there was more there – some kind of Watergate-like conspiracy as he wrote yesterday. Is that why he posted those provacative comments on Twitter?
Jon Miller of HawkeyeNation.com has the best take I’ve seen anywhere on Dodd’s motives, and I can provide no better summary and commentary. Well done, Jon.
What I can summarize is the resounding response Dodd received on Twitter for his ignorance of HIPAA, his reckless reporting, and his insensitivity to the futures of those 13 young student-athletes, who happen to play for the team I cheer for and adore – the Iowa Hawkeyes.
Here’s just a sample of the @ replies Dodd has received on his Twitter account:
From drshawnpet “You’re erroneously equating the words ‘privacy’ & ‘secrecy’; secrecy connotes ‘cover-up’ — there was none at Iowa.”
From bradybogue: “So you are encouraging breaking the law and violating privacy rights of college students? You need professional help, dude.”
From bobthehitman: “Public good my ass. It’s none of your business and you are advocating people to break the law. Go crawl back in your hole.”
From EricGpaEtzel “Please stop this inflammatory diatribe. In every case, patient info should be kept private. End of story.”
And my favorite, from China_Wall: “Post your medical records online. I’m concerned retardation is a common gene in your family & the public deserves to know.”
There are HUNDREDS more like these, all outing Dodd as a pot-stirring shock-jock with less-than-geniune motives. The story was over, but Dennis Dodd didn’t want it to be, so he inserted himself into the conversation with a few flaming tweets.
Thankfully, social media was there so Dodd could be shouted down by much smarter people who really do get it. And THAT is the end of the story.
Thanks for being a fan.