Social media driving a new kind of scandal
The irresponsible use of social media has driven Rep. Anthony Weiner, New York Democrat, into a scandalous limelight. The question: is it a sign of the times?
“It’s clear that social media is bringing in a new kind of scandal. It’s giving lawmakers new ways to mess up,” Betsy Rothstein, co-editor of Mediabistro’s FishbowlDC, told The Daily Caller. “Five years ago I don’t know if this story would have even happened.”
OhMyGov, a nonprofit social media group, published an analysis of Weiner’s Twitter account Wednesday. The analysis found the majority of Weiner’s tweets were during the business week, peaking on Wednesdays and bottoming on Sundays. He tweeted regularly during the night and weekends in a casual manner. His night posts, after 7 pm, totaled about 18 percent of his tweets.
“They were interesting. He liked to tweet off-hours, sometimes very late into the night,” Andrew Einhorn, CEO and cofounder of OhMyGov, said in an email to TheDC. “He speaks casually on it [Twitter], forgetting he is broadcasting to the world and having a lot of direct, open conversations. Now, that is how it is supposed to work, but it’s easy to see how the casual nature with which he approached the tweeting may have led him to let down his guard in a way he wouldn’t if say, a woman came on to him right on the floor house.”
Weiner’s posts attracted right-wing bloggers, who rallied around the infamous Twitter picture and demanded coverage by the mainstream media. Rothstein said major Capitol Hill publications, such as Roll Call, the Hill, and Politico, were slow to pick up #Weinergate.
“It became this sort of shame game of right-wing reporters asking other journalists why they weren’t covering the story, why they weren’t doing their job,” Rothstein said. “When I asked Roll Call last week why they weren’t covering this story they had no response. I mean, their response was they had no response. That was stunning to me.”
The OhMyGov report shows the public reaction Weinergate mirrored the media’s coverage. As Weinergate grew into a story, the number of his Facebook and Twitter followers grew, too. But, as Weiner began to behave suspiciously, and as news outlets began to cover the story, that number dropped off.
Einhorn and Rothstein agreed that Twitter has enhanced the coverage of Weintergate. Einhorn said it has given reporters more information to work with. Rothstein said Twitter was responsible for the non-stop coverage of the scandal.
“Given that social media is still a relatively new and hot phenomenon, many are still figuring out how best to use it,” Einhorn said. “There are many people and politicians still wary of social media, and this entire story just gives their concern more credence.”