Facebook fans 15 minutes of fame flame

Aug 13, 2010, 2:51 AM | Updated: Mar 28, 2011, 3:46 pm

Jet Blue flight attendant Steven Slater takes his job and chutes it. Along the way he picks up a couple of beers and more than 200,000 fans on Facebook.

JetBlue

Colton Harris-Moore allegedly steals boats, cars, planes and other property from the San Juans to the Bahamas, and gains more than 100,000 Facebook supporters through several pages dedicated to him.

LikeButtonFacebook makes hero worship as easy as clicking the “like” button.

Fans aren’t the only ones fascinated with these two characters, and others. News people love ’em too. The New York Times, CBS Evening News, The Wall Street Journal and almost all media outlets have mentioned the number of Facebook supporters Slater has gained in a few days. I’m just as guilty of reporting the Facebook fan phenomenon with Harris-Moore stories here, here, and yikes here too.

It’s almost as though someone’s fan or friend count is statistical evidence of popularity and importance.

“Many of today’s news people grew up in the new media culture and are unable to separate raw fame or notoriety from credibility, importance or newsworthiness,” says Tom Layson a television journalist for 22 years who now runs Puyallup-based New Media Solutions.

“When the wisdom of the crowd is substituted for solid, professional and fair news judgment, there frankly isn’t a whole lot of wisdom coming out of the media machine.”

Layson says journalism is supposed to “illuminate the hidden” but that’s not exactly what’s happening today. The measure of what’s newsworthy seems to be “who can shout the loudest, commit the most outrageous act, or gather the most ill-informed ‘friends’ on a social media platform.”

“I don’t think it says much for the profession, or the future of meaningful dialog in this country, but then again Bonnie and Clyde would have probably had a million Facebook fans had it been around in their day,” he says. “We can just measure bad judgment now.”

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Facebook fans 15 minutes of fame flame