David Letterman and the Wrath of Social Media

Last week, popular American late night comedian David Letterman admitted on his show that he had been the victim of a blackmailing attempt by a now former CBS producer. That story was interesting by itself, but he also admitted that the blackmailer threatened, if a $2m payment was not made, to release information that he did “terrible things”, which included having sexual relations with staff members on his show. For an audience hungry for scandal, this was a feast. Dave did the right thing, however, by admitting he did wrong and coming completely clean to the public. But that doesn’t mean he is now in need of damage control. Before social media and the internet, a story like this would hit the papers and play on the nightly news. People would discuss it over the water-cooler or over a pint of beer at the local pub. That has all changed now that the internet has brought us the social media revolution that is now upon us. Bloggers and citizen journalists began talking about this story all over the internet. They began uncovering old archival footage on the internet to show his hypocrisy when he joked about other celebrities and politicians who were in the same predicament he is now in. They began searching on the internet for the possible staff members that might be involved in the scandal. And worse of all, they began talking. To each other. Thousands and thousands of conversations that are being read by thousands and thousands and possibly more. Dave’s main problem now is how to get people to stop talking and make it all go away. Unfortunatley, with social media, this is not an easy problem to solve. Videos are all over Youtube, not just of Dave, but of ordinary people giving their own opinion of the scandal or creating satirical videos seen by thousands. Comments and discussions are appearing on blogs and across social media news sites like Digg.com. And people are twittering claiming to know who those who are involved in this whole mess.  But funny thing is, the mainstream media has barely touched this story. But that does not matter anymore. Social media has changed everything. Even your next door neighbor can blog, tweet or create a Youtube video and be heard by just as many people as your local news anchor or New York Times reporter. In the end, this whole fiasco has revealed to many that the true face of media has changed. It seems overnight that every Tom, Dick, and Harry have become citizen journalists, which are being heard by sizable audiences. This is a big problem for those, like Dave, who hope that they can quickly sweep it all under the rug after admitting their failings.  But one thing is for sure, if he didn’t admit it all, it would have eventually become known and the wrath of social media would have been ten times as vicious.

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