Montana ready for zombies, fiscally

Zombie GovA fun post found its way to Gov. Steve Bullock’s page on Facebook today. In the post, the governor said that Montana is prepared for “flood, fires, zombies and the current federal government shutdown.”

Cue the flashbacks to a certain emergency broadcast message that went out in Great Falls a few months back.

Aside from tapping in to one of society’s favorite narrative tropes and one of the Internet’s favorite memes, Bullock’s office said the humor is a good way to help get the governor’s message across on social media.

“Because of our responsible fiscal management, Montana is ready for emergencies,” said Mike Wessler, deputy communications director for Bullock. “That’s really the message we’re trying to get across.”

Wessler said Bullock’s office employs a social media manager who put together the post but noted that the governor himself is “engaged” in his social media presence. That presence has only become more important as more and more Montanans get their news from social sources, Wessler said.

“The governor want to be able to reach people no matter where they get their news,” he said.

A chat with the star of Bozeman’s thunderstorm-tubing video

June 29 Thunderstorm
A photo of the June 29 thunderstorm that brought torrential rain to Bozeman. (Photo by Jay Huber on Facebook).
Saturday evening’s thunderstorm brought sheets of lashing rain to most of Bozeman, downing small branches, partially flooding city streets and making fools of those of us who left car windows open even a tiny crack.

It also brought out the chroniclers among us. Many, many people took to the social networks during and after the storm to share photos and videos of the downpour. A lot of you graciously shared your photos with us at the Chronicle on Facebook.

One such sharer was Kari Andersen, who sent us a video she took from her home along 11th Avenue near the high school during the height of the storm.

This is what she shared.

Judging by the number of times it’s been liked, commented upon and re-shared, the odds are quite a few of you have seen it already.

Kari said it started when she received a call from her husband, who was driving down the street. He had seen the man on the tube and wanted to let Andersen know the tubist was coming.

“I have no idea who he was,” Andersen said via Facebook. “He was just hooting and hollering and having a great time.”

The mystery must have been too much, because Andersen did a little Facebook detective work and shared the results with this reporter, who immediately dashed off a message to one Todd Hoberecht of Bozeman.

I spoke by phone with Hoberecht on Sunday, who seemed tickled to be about most viral thing to hit the Bozeman social networks in some time.

“I was having a terrible day,” said Hoberecht, a house painter and formerly a production coordinator fo the Ellen Theater. “The storm actually reflected the mood I was in.”

Hoberecht, also a former pastor, said he was out for a walk in the rain to reflect on things. Feeling the water slapping at his legs, he had a sudden inspiration.

“I always remembered: When things are bad, the best thing to do is just ‘wahoo’ and paddle hard,” he said. “I ran home and just got my inner tube and went for it.”

Hoberecht said he made about four runs down the flooded street, gaining cheers, honks, waves and dousings from passing cars.

Andersen’s video, originally posted to Facebook, has received almost 750 re-shares from her personal page as of this writing and 374 likes. Our re-shared version on the BDC page has been re-shared 99 times and has been seen by more than 11,000 people.

Hoberecht said he’s gotten quite a few social pats on the back for his antics, which also had the added benefit of brightening his day and mood totally.

“If life gives you rain, you might as well go tubing.”

Roundup for June 28

UPDATED: Social media manager seems to quit job very publicly on Montana state tourism Facebook page

Sometime early this morning, a post appearing to be from a disgruntled social media marketer went public on [the state of Montana’s tourism page on Facebook](

Around 2:30 or 3:30 this morning, the following message went out to the page’s roughly 150,000 followers:

>F this job. I just want to live in Whitefish with my future husband. Leaving Bozeman for good tomorrow […] Thanks for the good times MercuryCSC!

MercuryCSC is an advertising agency based in Bozeman and San Francisco. Outside magazine this year [named the company one of the 30 best places to work](

The company lists its work with the state’s tourism office as [one of its case studies]( “Mercury’s work for the Montana Office of Tourism has been widely recognized as some of the most effective and innovative tourism marketing in the nation,” the Web page says. There’s [a video touting the success of the campaign]( on Vimeo.

The posting has since been deleted, to the chagrin of entertained followers, if the “posts by others” on the Facebook page are to be believed.

The posting does live on [in screenshots]( and on [Reddit](

Sarah Lawlor, spokeswoman for the tourism office, said the state office works closely with Mercury in its social media strategy, so Mercury employees do have administrative rights to the Facebook page.

“They usually run everything they will post through us first,” Lawlor said.

“It was a personal error by this person, and once they realized this error, we removed the post,” she said. “Obviously, it wasn’t content intended for our Facebook audience.”

The Office of Tourism will post an explantory statement to its page today.

Lawlor said it was too soon to tell whether the incident would affect the office’s relationship with Mercury.

“We’re going to have to have that discussion internally,” she said. “We haven’t had a chance to do that yet, but there will certainly be some review.”

MacLaren Latta at MercuryCSC said she could not discuss the matter since was a personnel issue. She also could not say whether the person in question was still with the company.

**Update:** MercuryCSC has released a statement about the incident, noting that it is no longer doing social media work for the state’s tourism office.

>At approximately 2:15 a.m. on Friday, December 7, 2012, an employee of MercuryCSC made a mistake and posted unprofessional personal comments as ”Montana” to the Montana Facebook page.
>As soon as the post was discovered, it was removed. However, images of the post were distributed throughout social media and news channels causing confusion and speculation about the source and the nature of the post.
>MercuryCSC no longer has administrative rights to the Montana Facebook page, and MercuryCSC is no longer performing social media work for the Montana Office of Tourism.
>MercuryCSC accepts responsibility for and is actively working with the Montana Office of Tourism to address the situation.
>MercuryCSC regrets this chain of events. We apologize to our client and the state of Montana for this issue.
>As it is a personnel matter, we are not able to make additional comments.

More issues related to quoting from social networking profiles

I wrote Wednesday about a social networking issue: [Should journalists quote from sources’ social media profiles?](

I had a few more thoughts to share that didn’t quite fit into that post, so I thought I’d file a kind of disjointed follow-up.

###The Heinous Crime Provision

First of all, media organizations already quote regularly from personal social media profiles — it just happens to occur most often, at least in my experience, when the person in question has committed some kind of horrible crime, like shooting up a crowded theater.

I’m not sure any of us watching at home really think of this kind of quoting at “not OK,” though we may think it isn’t strictly necessary. Still, in situations like that, the media-viewing public is thirsty for any information about the criminal it can get, and social media profiles provide a glimpse into the perp’s mind.

Does this kind of “mass murderer” provision filter down to the level of the average Facebook user who hasn’t committed an atrocity? These people don’t have the same weight of public scrutiny on them that high-profile criminals do, so do we treat their privacy differently? Are we treating the high profile criminal’s privacy with irresponsible recklessness? (Consider that most of this media scrutiny happens directly after the crime and before any sort of court proceedings have determined that person’s guilt.)

I don’t have answers for these questions, by the way. Sorry to disappoint.

###The Integrity of Quotes

Second, I keep coming back to this thing I wrote:

>Second, why would we necessarily give someone a chance to rephrase their wording for the media? If you see something interesting on a person’s Facebook profile and want to quote it but then you do decide to call the person first, what is he going to do? He’s going to reword himself, polish up the quote — make it media-pretty.
>I suppose it’s up to the reporter to decide whether it’s OK for the source to present a media-savvy front or to be quoted in situ. If the quote is worth quoting and it’s public, I’d say go use it.

We do this all the time already. When I worked in public relations at the local university, before rejoining the newspaper, we did it. We let sources edit and then OK their quotes.

Sometimes in the modern newsroom, we call sources before a story runs and read quotes back to them. This is done to make sure the quotes are accurate. The ethical reporter shouldn’t change a quote at a source’s request — probably — especially not if it is simply to make the source look better.

But what if the change the source requests improves the accuracy of the quote? What if changing one word is the difference between being wrong and right? Do you edit the existing quote to reflect the change or make them say it again? Is it enough for the source to say to you over the phone, “That quote you read me? Add in that one word and then consider that to be what I said.”?

Quotations are always tricky when the interview wasn’t recorded or when it was just you and the source in a one-on-one discussion. If a reporter has nothing but her notes as the record, then who is to say that when you sit down to write out that story that you got that source’s words *exactly* right? Add to this the fact that most people wouldn’t be able to tell you the precise words they spokes hours or days before.

With the social networking thing, you have a record of exactly what was said, and even if you call a source back and ask them about the thing they typed as a status update, all the pretty quotes they can give you over the phone doesn’t change the fact that they wrote it in the first place.

###But then again…

What if the source changes the privacy settings on the post in question after a journalist has seen it? Can they pull something back out of the public sphere after it has been seen?

Is it OK to quote sources from social network posts?

Privacy by Dave Pearson on Flickr

Privacy by Dave Pearson on Flickr Greer, who works with the Montana Human Rights Network, put up an journalistically interesting post on his personal Facebook wall yesterday. In it, Greer says that a Missoulian guest columnist quoted him from a posting on his personal Facebook profile without directly contacting him.

(Beware, we are about to get into the deep meta-criticism world in which I discuss and quote things from Facebook in a post in which I discuss the appropriateness of quoting things from Facebook.)


The [column in question]( was by writer and activist Dave Stalling, who wrote Aug. 14 about Joseph Baken, the young man [who told police he was assaulted at a Missoula bar for being gay]( when [in reality he hurt himself trying some flip stunt]( that [wound up on YouTube]( ([from multiple angles even](

In his column, Stalling writes:

>Jamee Greer of the Montana Human Rights Network is right on when he says bias crimes are about more than just the person who is at the end of an assailant’s fist. “They are about all of us. They are about silencing us, about intimidating us – about sending a message that we are not welcome in our own communities,” he says. “They try to send the message that we are an ‘other’ wholly undeserving of not just basic legal protections like marriage rights or non-discrimination in the workplace – but not even the right to immediate personal safety and physical security for ourselves and those we love. They are about hate and fear and terrorism.”

The thing is, that quote comes from a posting Greer made Aug. 6 to his personal Facebook account.

Greer is one of the hundreds of people I happen to be friends with on Facebook, so I was able to verify this, just as I was able to see the initial exchange about Greer seeing his words quoted in the Missoulian column. Both postings are listed right now as being shared with “Jamee’s friends,” and not as a public post, so I will not provide links. I don’t know if that ever changed or if they were limited visibility posts the whole time.

About five hours after Greer made his initial post about the column quote, Stalling responded to Greer on Facebook to explain himself. Stalling said he had earlier quoted Greer’s Facebook postings in [a blog post]( that Greer had “liked” and commented on, so he assumed it was OK to quote him in the column.

Greer wrote in his original post that the incident has made him paranoid about what he posts on the social network, and he writes in a comment later that he will be limiting some of his Facebook postings as a result.

Enough of the details. Let’s move on to the theoretical question at the heart of all this:

Is it appropriate for a journalist or columnist to quote from someone’s Facebook page?

###What others say

In January, Vince Duffy of the Radio Television Digital News Association [asked a similar question]( He didn’t come to any conclusions, and the three (yes, only three) reporters he spoke to about it had mixed opinions — one of which was that it was “lazy” to quote social network profiles without contacting a source.

[Poynter took up the matter of social network privacy in March]( In her article, Nisha Chittal addresses both Twitter and Facebook, but we’ll leave the tweeting aside for now.

Chittal rightly notes that Facebook’s privacy settings are complicated. While it is possible to limit your postings to friends or subsets of friends, general users might not know that or might not even realize their posts are being sent out into the wider world labeled “public.”

The conclusion of Chittal’s column, however, is that it’s still up in the air. There are many useful things reporters can find out in public on Facebook and many things that can lead them on to good contacts with sources and more background information about someone based on their likes and connections.

But to actually quote from a publicly available Facebook page without contacting the person first… Well, that’s a choice that seems to be made on a case-by-case basis, and Chittal lists a series of questions writers can ask themselves before quoting such material.

###How I see it

Yes, you can quote people directly from their social networking profiles. No, you don’t *need* to make an effort to reach them directly, though that might be better in many cases.

However, the postings you quote must be publicly visible.

(You used to be able to search public Facebook posts via YourOpenBook, but [Wikipedia tells me]( the site was shut down in July for legal reasons. You can still limit search results inside Facebook to only public posts, though.)

Now, Greer’s postings are currently set to be visible only to his Facebook friends. I don’t believe a social network friend should take advantage of that relationship to quote things openly. In this particular case, Stalling should have spoken to Greer first.

Back to why I think it’s OK to quote from social media without contacting a person.

First, and call me cold-hearted, but if you haven’t managed to figure out the privacy settings in Facebook, you need to learn them.

Second, why would we necessarily give someone a chance to rephrase their wording for the media? If you see something interesting on a person’s Facebook profile and want to quote it but then you do decide to call the person first, what is he going to do? He’s going to reword himself, polish up the quote — make it media-pretty.

I suppose it’s up to the reporter to decide whether it’s OK for the source to present a media-savvy front or to be quoted in situ. If the quote is worth quoting and it’s public, I’d say go use it.

That’s not to say I think you should use Facebook posts lightly. In fact, I’d be inclined to use the postings only as a last resort, unless the quote itself is the impetus for the story. And if a newspaper is basing a story on a social media post, then it had better be a public figure flubbing up or a fluffy feature — both cases in which you’d contact the person involved for more information or a response.

Finally: Don’t post things on the Internet unless you want them to be public. No matter what security or privacy settings you have in place, you are transferring information to another computer on a worldwide network. Don’t expect privacy.

###General Guideline

I’m going to pass the buck and say it’s got to be a case-by-case analysis. There’s no way to make a single rule for something this fluid.

Facebook buying Instagram

In what will undoubtedly be the biggest social media story of the day, Facebook announced that it is buying the popular photo-sharing service Instagram for $1 billion.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced the news on his Facebook timeline, of course. In the post, Zuckerberg writes that Facebook needs to be “mindful about keeping and building on Instagram’s strengths and features rather than just trying to integrate everything into Facebook.” Accordingly, Instagram will be kept independent of Facebook, he said.

In his own blog post, Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom wrote:

It’s important to be clear that Instagram is not going away. We’ll be working with Facebook to evolve Instagram and build the network. We’ll continue to add new features to the product and find new ways to create a better mobile photos experience.

In its formal press release, Facebook said the deal is expected to close this quarter.

According to a report on AllThingsD, San Francisco-based Instagram had 30 million users on the iPhone before releasing an Android app last week, which quickly drew in a million more users.

ICYMI: Montana State has strong social media kung-fu

Reporter Gail Schontzler filed this story a few days ago, after MSU’s assistant director of Web communications, Jake Dolan, made a presentation to the University Council on all the ways the university is using social networks to keep up with students and to keep in touch with potential students.

My favorite part of Gail’s story:

Dolan asked how many of the assembled deans, MSU employee representatives and administrators use Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest and other social networking sites. President Waded Cruzado laughed and said, “Notice, I didn’t raise my hand once!”

Read the whole story at the link above to get a snapshot of some of the university’s social networking numbers. They are impressive, and in my opinion, it’s good to see MSU taking advantage of new mediums.

* Disclaimer: I graduated from MSU and have worked there in many capacities over the years.

Bullock lets Internet generate buzz for governor race

Bullock2012Logo 300x80

Montana’s Attorney General, Steve Bullock, has joined the race for governor. That’s not really news, since everybody and their mother has known Bullock would eventually announce his candidacy for the 2012 race.

What’s interesting, in terms of this blog, is that he announced his candidacy early Wednesday morning electronically, with his team taking his campaign website, Facebook page, YouTube channel and Twitter account live, likely even before the candidate himself rolled out of bed.

Well, maybe not the Twitter account. The link is dead on his website. His existing Twitter account @AGSteveBullock looks like it always has, including an update yesterday evening about a scam warning for Bozeman and Billings.

Bullock’s actual announcement party, the meatspace one, will be held tonight at 5 p.m. in Billings at The Depot. A campaign kickoff party is scheduled for Bozeman on Sept. 15 at the Emerson Center.

It’s not surprising, at least to me, that Bullock broke the news on the Internet. Over the past couple years, the Attorney General has been using social media sites to his advantage, sending out tweets and uploading YouTube videos. Along with Secretary of State Linda McCulloch, he’s been one of Montana government’s most active online elected officials.

The dwindling archive: Evidence of Bozeman explosion fading from the Web

On a cold, snowy morning two years ago, a natural gas explosion tore through a block of downtown Bozeman, destroying several businesses and buildings and killing one woman.

Above and beyond the devastating real-world repercussions of the explosion, the blast also echoed through cyberspace, where scores of people devoted the better part of a week to chronicling the events online, on sites like Facebook, Twitter and Flickr.

For a time that day, the hashtag #bozexplod was a trending topic on Twitter, meaning that Bozeman’s drama was generating as much interest as anything else in the world. People posted about the blast from their offices, their apartments and even from within a few yards of the blast site itself, relaying information, propagating rumor and adding new, useful info.

Meanwhile, photos were being posted to Flickr under the same tag and to other sites across the Web. People shared the breaking news with friends on Facebook. Videos were uploaded to YouTube. It was, effectively, a small-scale version of the big breaking news events that would come later on Twitter, such as the Iranian, Egyptian and Wisconsin protests (just to name a few).

But two years later, how much of that material remains online and accessible?

Continue reading “The dwindling archive: Evidence of Bozeman explosion fading from the Web”