Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Course Records and Social Media

Yesterday was pretty interesting.  As you know, I wrote a short blog post about Jon Gugala's sexist and disrespectful engagement with fellow journalists and members of the running community online.  This post garnered a lot of attention, not only from my friends and family who normally read this blog but from about one thousand other people as well.

Without any doubt, I did not expect that kind of reaction.  Over the course of my personal blog's lifetime, it averaged between zero and 60 hits per day.  Yesterday, after some proactive social media promotion, which I do with most of my posts, the blog saw over 900 visitors. By this morning the post had over 1,040 hits and eight comment (including two about a typo that I didn't remove after fixing the mistake). OK, enough with the self-congratulations.

After posting and pushing my post out to my small Twitter and Facebook community, the re-Tweets started coming in with small edits about how this is unacceptable.  It would appear that the call to email the editorial and publishing executives at his major outlets also was successful, in that by yesterday evening Runner's World's official Twitter feed published two Tweets distanced itself from Jon (H/T Charles Mandel).

Now, Jon is entitled to his view and should be free to express said views, however, he can't expect others not to react.
I have received a few "get over it" Tweets and comments about this situation.  As "G" states in the comments on the post, this was not "an equal and opposite reaction."

But every action has consequences, not an equal and opposite reaction.  We do not live in a world governed by the laws of physics, but rather we are governed by the laws of public opinion.  This is especially true within a the segmented and engaged world of social media networks dominated by passionate empowered participants.

After being prompted by Jon's Tweet to send him Tracy's post, I sent him the post and said his Tweets were out of line.  He called us names and continued to belittle other members of the community. I wrote a post about the situation in which I noted that his actions, in my opinion, did not best represent the publications or their stated goals of engaging as many people as possible in healthy lifestyles centered on running.

As I said yesterday, a brief "my bad, I was trying to be funny. sorry you took it the wrong way" Tweet would have ended the situation.  Instead, our posts -- along with email addresses to the decision makers at his publications -- went viral-ish in our small little corner of the Intertubes.

My actions and the actions of Tracy did not cause the public Runner's World  reaction or lead to the Twitter bio change on Jon's account. Rather Jon's Tweets and reactions to his readers/consumers lead to these consequences.  We simply told the story.

I honestly did not expect this result as quickly as it came, but I am pleased that Jon is being held accountable for his actions.  The Internet has a strange way of holding people accountable even if the actions at first were less than worthy of reaction.

It is clear to me that those of us who did write to the leaders of these publications yesterday did so because we care about our sport and how it is portrayed and who portrays it.  All you need to do is look to the major sport outlets and the outrage around the ESPN racist remarks about Jeremy Lin .

Additionally how many times do we hear the "you are role models" line given to sports stars? This goes for all people with developed personalities in the sport or those trying to make a name for themselves. Had the Lin situation or even our little mishap happened 10 years ago, odds are it would have fizzled and gone away.

But not today.

The power of social media can't be ignored by those trying to cultivate personality or brands.  When this started, Jon had 218 followers on Twitter and a lower Klout score.  Yesterday's dust up earned him an addition 100 followers and much stronger Klout score.  However, it also cost him his positions at Runner's World and Running Times, according to his recently changed Twitter bio.

And while he did apologize if his comments were offensive to you, his reputation will forever be scarred. It does seem pretty clear that he knows we care about our sport and demand a higher level of discourse.

Finally, I want to thank all of you who read, re-Tweeted and most importantly sent messages to the publications.  If we allow our community to go unregulated, then we are to blame if this kind of conduct takes place.  If Jon does read this post, which I doubt, I wish him well as he rebuilds his career.

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