“I’m relying on your common decency
So far, it hasn’t surfaced but I’m sure it exists.” — Martin Gore
Washington Post reporter Annie Linskey got herself into some hot water this weekend with one of those jokes that went over like a pregnant pole vaulter. For those that don’t want to go down the rabbit hole, she essentially poked fun at Joe Biden’s trip through the cemetery to visit the graves of his family. Instead, she claimed he was visiting his domestic agenda.
According to Linskey, she did not know he was actually visiting his son’s grave. In the process, she learned two key things as it pertains to social media. First, once you hit send on a tweet it’s going to be out there. Sure, you can go back and delete the tweet, but someone has made a copy and will produce it on the ready.
Secondly, the urge to be first is strong, but an enterprising journalist has to remember it is more important to be right. Being first with a joke is even more pathetic. Exactly how many points does that get you? If she had taken the extra few minutes to figure out why he was there this could have been avoided. If she had taken the extra few minutes to realize she is a Washington Post reporter and not a comic at the local improv this could have been avoided.
As you might suspect, the outrage machine started up in full force. If Twitter is good for anything it is good for a nice ratio. The ratio is where numerous commenters and strangers get to pile on after an ill-advised tweet. So, hundreds of people commenter with some saying they were canceling their subscription to the Washington Post. As of now she is still employed with the Post, but it doesn’t take a huge effort to see that changing before this story cycle ends.
As for Biden, he hardly reacted at all. If we can count on Biden for anything it is that he will always maintain his dignity. He will occasionally fumble through words or offer the occasional gaffe as any president would. Some of that is the stuttering. Some of that is a lifetime of not necessarily being a great orator. Heck, maybe some of it is age. What we do know is that he won’t do or say anything excessively mean. The last guy would have jumped at that opportunity.
We should keep that as our guide on what to do about Linskey. While it can seem fun to put someone through the ringer for a horrible mistake, we do have to remember she is human. We have to remember we all make mistakes. We have to remember that she has likely done 100 good things for every one bad thing she has done. While we can say that none of us has ever done THAT, we all can say we have done something awful that would have been ridiculed in public if any of us had a higher social media profile.
So, here’s hoping that Linskey learns something valuable from this experience and that she has the opportunity to demonstrate to us that she is a better person for it. Destroying a reporter for a bad joke doesn’t seem appropriate. At least it doesn’t seem any more appropriate than the bad joke she attempted to take back.