criticism.jpgA blogger took a cheap shot at me recently. He said one of my stories was “sloppy journalism.”

It really sucks when you come across information about yourself and it’s anything but flattering. Maybe someone blogs about what an idiot you are because they don’t like something you said in a blog, or in a research paper. Or maybe you have skeletons in your closet and someone’s decided to expose those in cyber space; or you got in trouble with the law and when someone Googles your name a small story from a local paper about what you did comes up. Or those suggestive photos of yourself you put on MySpace when you were 17 are now making the cyber rounds.

I was researching a story on how to erase negative information about yourself on the Web and a source made a good point about how you can combat bad things without actually erasing information.

“What to do when you don’t like the impression given by your online persona?,” asks C. David Gammel, a corporate technology consultant. “The counterintuitive response is the best: post even more content about yourself online.”

However, he adds, “the content should be of a nature that is at least neutral at best positive for your career prospects. Blog about your professional interests. Discuss research you have conducted yourself on a topic of interest. You get the idea. Since Internet skeletons are forever you have to bury them in more content that creates the impression you wish to have online. Once the less savory items are pushed off your first page of ego search results on Google you’ll be fine with most people. That’s why you have to post more, not less, to get rid of the impact of those skeletons.”

So, back to someone dogging the CareerDiva on the Web.

I came across a blog post written by Mark Story, a communications expert and adjunct faculty at the School of Continuing Studies at Georgetown University, that blasted a story I had written for MSNBC.com about social networking overload.

Here’s the post:

OK. Now I have to write about it.

Two people have sent me an article from MSNBC from last week entitled “Beware of social networking overload.” The author is Eve Tahmincioglu (imagine having to pronounce that last name for your teachers), but this article is maddening to me.

I am of the school that increasingly, “traditional” journalism is more about having headlines designed to garner eyeballs or sell papers — and this article proves my point. Among the things that Eve brings up are the following points:

Here’s what people have been asking me lately: “Is it enough just to be on LinkedIn and Facebook?” “I just got an invite from a friend who’s on Plaxo. What is it and should I join?” “Will I dilute my networking effectiveness if I’m on MySpace, LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter?”

I know, there’s a hint of desperation in the air because of the tough economy, and everyone wants to have lots of connections just in case layoffs are looming. But beware. You might end up with social networking overload.

AAAARRRGGGGHHHHH.

I have said this in my class before and will say it to anyone who will listen: THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS “INFORMATION OVERLOAD” IF YOU DO NOT ALLOW IT TO EXIST.

Point #1: plenty of people, myself included, choose to be on Facebook, LinkedIn,Twitter and other social networking sites (I am experimenting with Identi.ca too), and I have a blog too. These are opt-in/optional tools, however. Sure there are some of my Tweeps out there who spend way too much time bouncing back and forth, but no one is twisting their arms. And almost every single social media relationship into which I have invested time and effort has led to meeting someone in “first life.” And I don’t mean dating, I mean things like participating in Blog World Expo (shameless plug, but I’ll be speaking there in September).

Point #2: this is sloppy journalism. There are plenty of aggregator sites out there like FriendFeed that do the work for you and pull all of this together. I check the automatic email or the site once every couple of days to see what the people in my online social networks are up to. Aggregator sites put everything in one place.

Point #3: “There is desperation out there about the economy?” Nice tie in. Sure, there is. But being on a social network is only (if you are lucky) ten percent of what is required to get a good job - and many postings on things like Facebook (keg stands) can have the opposite effect in terms of getting in the door for an interview.

Final point: do your research, Eve. Overload only exists when you choose to let it. And there are plenty of ways to pull everything into one place so you can keep up with all of your buddies online.

Mark

Oh man, did I get angry when I read this. I sat there wondering what to do. Should I respond on Story’s blog or just send him a nasty email? Or should I do nothing? I’m a journalist after all and we need thick skin. I’ve been called worse by people in the business world and beyond.

But then I wondered about how the blog post might be perceived by others who came upon it. This guy taught at Georgetown for heaven’s sake. What he had to say really didn’t help my reputation.

When I calmed down I decided to write a response on his blog. I’m a blogger after all and should put all the information I can out there, especially about my work and my reporting.

Here’s my comment:

Hey Mark,

I don’t enjoy being called sloppy but I’m open to any criticism if I can learn from it and get better at what I do. I’m not sure your criticism here really helped me out but I’d be interested in hearing more.

It’s great to hear you’re able to keep up with so many social networking sites, but alas, not everyone can, aggregators or not.

I have gotten tons of emails from people who believe they need to have hundreds of friends on every site out there and the thought of it is driving them crazy. The bottom line is they don’t.

Because of what we do we have to luxury to play around with all these new great sites, but there are many professionals out there scrambling to keep their jobs or find new ones that don’t.

If I had time, I would definitely attend the Blog Expo, being I’m a blogger myself. I would have stopped by to say hello.

And by the way, my name is pronounced, tach-min-gio-lou.

Best,
Eve

I waited a bit to see if Story would post my comment, and he did in fairly quick order.

“That was the end of it,” I thought. There are many schools of thought on how you should respond to negative info about you on a blog. Some worry that you may be goading a blogger into write even more bad stuff about you if you take the blogger to task. Others believe you should always get your side out no matter what the cost.

I decided to write my piece and let the Internet gods judge.

To my surprise I got an email from Story a couple of days later. The email actually made me a bit misty.

Hi Eve,

I posted on your blog (couldn’t find a contact me link - could just be me), but the bottom line is that your polite and measured response to my post cemented the fact that what I wrote was a cheap shot. And I apologize for it.

Where I come from, when you make a mistake, you own up to it. And I will. Expect a post, to be published on Monday, with a big apology in it. My response to your comment is here at the bottom: http://tinyurl.com/64jtmq.

And now that I have visited your blog, learned more about you and your experience, I have a big, fat egg on my face. And I will make it right.

Best,

Mark Story

OK, I have to admit I was totally shocked. I never imagined he’d even email me, let alone admit to going a bit too far.

His response meant several things to me.

First off, it renewed my faith in journalism. The profession has taken a beating lately as traditional media tries to adapt to the ever changing digital world of information. There’s a lot of bad journalism filling the cyber airwaves and you wonder if all this information is really sparking an inclusive debate for the citizens of the world, or if we’re just making each other dumb and dumber. But he gave me hope. Here was Story, his readers and me having a conversation. He questioned me. I questioned him, and ultimately, we had a deeper exchange about social networking.

Secondly, it shows that countering bad stuff about youself on the Web can sometimes payoff. When someone comes across the “sloppy” post they’ll also see Story’s mea culpa. So get out there and start getting your story out.

And thirdly, despite the recent rancor between Democrats and Republicans vying for office, we don’t live in a world where everyone is so tied to what they freakin say and believe that they won’t listen to the other side.

I know, this post I’m writing now would be a lot different if Story had responded to my post on his blog with a “bite me Eve.”

But he didn’t so this is how my post ends.

My hats off to Story, who really did write another post on me today.

Here it is:

I Was Wrong. Sorry, Eve.
September 08th, 2008 | Category: In the news, Online public relations, social media

eating-crow.jpg
In a moment that was likely based on blogger hubris and too much caffeine, a few weeks ago, I blogged about an MSNBC piece on social media overload and called it “sloppy journalism.”

The point that I was attempting to make in the post is that there are enough tools and aggregators out there to eliminate social media overload. FriendFeed and other tools can put it all in one place. Almost as soon as I wrote it, some regular readers chimed in and politely took me to task; the article was note written for propeller-heads such as myself, but for people for whom social media may indeed create overload.

Among the initial comments were:

* Jonathan Trenn said: You’re an online strategist, a PR pro, a social media practitioner. Being networked on all these sites is in your professional blood. In addition, you likely feel somewhat required to take part in all of these networks because it’s tied into what you do for a living. She’s likely writing that piece for a lot of the working professionals who are getting all sorts of information on this network, on that service, etc.
* Jenn Zingsheim said: I agree that this seems to be sensationalist journalism, but Jonathan has a really great point. I find that when I’m talking about what I do to friends & family, they get quickly lost when I’m describing all the different networks. They like to package things neatly into boxes (”…ok, so Flickr does photos, LinkedIn is professional, Facebook is college…what? It’s not just college? and you have professional connections there too?…I thought that’s what LinkedIn was for…” etc.)

And then, yesterday, the author of the original article, Eve Tahmincioglu wrote a polite and measured response to my posting which was critical of her piece (which I am listing in its entirety):

*

Hey Mark,

I don’t enjoy being called sloppy but I’m open to any criticism if I can learn from it and get better at what I do. I’m not sure your criticism here really helped me out but I’d be interested in hearing more.

It’s great to hear you’re able to keep up with so many social networking sites, but alas, not everyone can, aggregators or not.

I have gotten tons of emails from people who believe they need to have hundreds of friends on every site out there and the thought of it is driving them crazy. The bottom line is they don’t.

Because of what we do we have to luxury to play around with all these new great sites, but there are many professionals out there scrambling to keep their jobs or find new ones that don’t.

If I had time, I would definitely attend the Blog Expo, being I’m a blogger myself. I would have stopped by to say hello.

And by the way, my name is pronounced, tach-min-gio-lou.

Best,
Eve

Just like the old saying goes, if one man calls you a jackass, pay no attention. If three people call you a jackass, buy a saddle. So I am going saddle shopping later today.

I’ll say publicly what I posted in the comment thread and what I emailed: my post was a cheap shot and Eve responded politely and without rancor. And the fact is that Eve, Jonathan and Jenn were right: it’s easy for me to dismiss social media overload because I live in a different world. Given time to think about it, my response is akin to my accountant saying to me, “There’s no such thing as difficulties in doing your taxes because Microsoft Excel is so easy to use.”

I was wrong, period, and am eating a big crow sandwich. After I researched Eve a little, I discovered that she has her own blog, has published a book, and is well-thought of enough to have column on MSNBC and is clearly somewhat of an expert in the career field.

And to top it all off, when subject of a pithy post, Eve is unfailingly polite.

So where I come from, when you’re wrong, you apologize. Sorry, Eve.

Mark

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