Today I had a virtual run-in with Michael Strickland, a junior at NYU and the Director of Technology at its school paper, Washington Square News. He called me out on Twitter for posting an “insensitive tweet” about a fire at NYU’s Brittany residence hall. The fire was started by a student who, according to the WSN article, “appeared suicidal”. Fortunately, nobody was harmed, though the arsonist did have self-inflicted lacerations and was taken to a hospital.
Now, how did I offend? Using the novelty Twitter account @inbed, I retweeted NYU News adding, “….in bed”. Yes, the sole purpose of that account is to play the common Fortune Cookie game, but instead of adding “in bed” to highly-profound messages emanating from a cookie, it’s appended to tweets. So, the altered retweet read: “Brittany fire intentionally started by NYU student Saturday night….in bed.”
Strickland’s response was to call me an ass. First he tweeted me the link to the article suggesting I should read it and then “feel like a terrible person”. I blew him off, and then he wrote up a blog post calling me an ass. I’m not arguing that point. In fact, I think I’m the only one that Facebook liked his post.
Him calling me out on Twitter was not an issue. I invite everyone to tweet me their opinions of myself and my actions. However, I have my own opinions about Michael Strickland now, and I feel it’s important that I express them. There are four issues I have: He purposefully tried to attack my well-being, he demanded censorship (backed with a threat), he has poor journalistic integrity and he endorses spam through an educational and journalistic institution.
Attempted Attack of my Well-being
I don’t mind disagreements. I don’t expect people to believe as I do, but I am a strong supporter of free speech. It is important that people express their beliefs and engage in dialogue with their opposition. Respectful and rational debates go a long way in ensuring our intellectual survival as a society. Where I would draw the line, though, is at attacking or causing risk to another’s livelihood.
Strickland tracked down the Twitter handles of my employers and included them in two of his responses to the conversation he instigated with me. At best, he had no regard for my personal life. At worst, he sought to ruin my career. This is a low, cheap move. Fortunately, I work with great people who would not be persuaded by the slurs of a wannabe journalist.
As previously mentioned, I support free speech. I tweeted what I did, albeit from a nonsensical Twitter handle, and stand behind it. I’m not saying it wasn’t insensitive, as Strickland claims it was. I’m not even saying that the “joke” was funny. After all, the entire purpose of the account can only reasonably be described as stupid. Regardless of your views, his views and even my own views about the tweet, censoring it is the wrong move. As Kenneth Cole surely knows, nothing can be unsaid. So, I say let it stand as a beacon of honesty of whatever the situation may be. If there’s cause for discourse, then bring it on. Deleting the tweet would rectify nothing.
And what that tweet represents, even in its insensitive stupidity, is my right to say what I please. The tweet was in no way connected to me in a professional capacity. It was tweeted from my home computer on my own time. Despite this, Strickland brought my employers into his attack. He threatened, “Please, give me a reason to write letters to your company’s partners. Just remove the @inbed tweet.”
Threats and calls for censorship are ridiculous! What we had, if anything, was a personal squabble. He took it to unnecessary heights.
Poor Journalistic Integrity
As should be obvious by the two previous issues, Michael Strickland has terrible journalistic integrity. Granted, maybe he’s not a journalist in training. Technically, he’s just the computer guy at the paper. However, he lists Journalism as a major and refers to himself as a “data-journalist” in his Twitter bio. So, I think it’s safe to say he should have some degree of journalistic integrity. However, in his reactions to my tweets it’s apparent he’s lacking in this department.
A true journalist should uphold the value of free speech, being that it’s the Right that establishes and allows for the existence of the Press. Without free speech, there can’t be true journalism, only propaganda. But Strickland’s natural response to opposing ideas is to demand censorship. Furthormore, what he posted to his Storify, as you’ll see in the screencap linked below, was a slightly distorted view of events. Dishonesty and personal attacks do not make for a good journalist.
Nobody really likes spam, at least not the Internet kind. Being the Director of Technology, surely Michael Strickland would have a handle on all that goes down at nyunews.com. So, during our tweet exchange, I asked him about the obvious paid links in the footer. There was no response. Somebody is making money off of the links “online shopping” and “buy used cars”. I could do as Strickland would and tweet his employers or school officials. Though, instead I just tweeted Matt Cutts of Google’s spam-fighting team. I only did that after Strickland ignored my question about the paid links and threatened to write letters to my professional contacts.
As an SEO, I’m familiar with the many sides of paid links. On one hand, they’re a useful and/or profitable commodity of the free market. On the other, they’re destroying the Internet by gaming a system that tries to serve quality content instead of spam. Regardless of the right and wrongs of paid links, the way WSN appears to be doing it is a violation of Google’s guidelines. And I doubt spam is something NYU would want to be associated with. And, going back to journalistic integrity, I would question the integrity of this deceptive means of monetizing so-called journalism.
Those are my issues with this individual. The point of this isn’t to absolve my actions, but to simply point out the Kettle that’s calling me an ass. I’m open to hearing his response. I certainly would like clarification on the WSN footer spam issue being a former student of NYU myself. And an apology would be appreciated, though not necessary, for trying to harm me professionally. For those interested, here’s the full timeline of tweets juxtaposed with Strickland’s Storify interpretation. The blurred spots are mentions of my employers by Strickland.