Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Ethics, Social Media, and Live Television...You Can Run But You Can't Hide

Social Media has blurred the lines of so many things in our society. Once something is posted on the Internet it is nearly impossible to remove. To paraphrase what former heavyweight champion Joe Louis once said about an opponent, "You can run but you can't hide."

In the Social Media Age, keeping secrets and client confidentiality has become even more difficult due to the rapid pace of technology and constant innovation. In today's "look at me" world everyone seems to want their 15 minutes of fame. Lawyers are no different than anyone else due to the nature of the profession. However, lawyers must be very aware of the ethical issues inherent in the Social Media Age.

During the past year, members of the media have requested my insight on multiple occasions. Due to my schedule, reporter deadlines, etc... I have had to turn down some requests. However, I have also turned down some very high profile media opportunities due to some of the ethical issues.

At the height of Congressman Anthony Weiner's social media crisis on June 1, 2011, I was asked to speak about the matter on MSNBC television. Since Weiner had not contacted me regarding his situation, I was able to accept the the opportunity to discuss his situation on national television. I was called at 10:30am for a noon appearance and had to quickly reschedule several meetings.

It was the first time I had done a live national television segment so I did not know what to expect. I arrived at my local NBC affiliate just in time to go into makeup before the segment. Right after makeup, I was led into a small studio with a bookshelf backdrop and given a sound check. I was not provided any direction on what part of the camera to focus on and I was not able to see how I would look on camera to ensure that I was looking directly into the camera. I was in a different location than the interviewer and I could not see him or the background information that were part of the segment. The room was pitch dark except for some bright lights shinning on me.

Before the segment started, I only knew that the general topic would be the legal issues that may be involved with Weiner's social media matter. During the appearance, I correctly pointed out that it was troubling that Weiner had not asked for an investigation. In the middle of the segment, I looked down for a split second because I felt something brush against my leg. After the segment, I realized that the thing I most likely felt brush against my leg was a wire that moved because my briefcase fell over it during the segment. In addition, I kept blinking throughout the segment because my eyes felt very dry. Afterward, I felt like Homer Simpson and said to myself D'oh. As Murphy's Law states, "anything that can go wrong will go wrong."

It was several weeks before I was able to view my appearance and obtain a copy of it. After seeing my performance, I was inclined not to post the appearance online but I decided that I should follow the advice I usually give clients so I decided to post it so I can provide proper context to it. My performance could have been worse. At least I didn't call the President an inappropriate name on national television.

I am very appreciate that NBC provided me this opportunity and when I am contacted again I will look to improve upon my performance.

If you are interested in viewing the segment here it is:

To learn more about social media law and ethics you may contact me at http://www.shearlaw.com/.

Copyright 2011 by the Law Office of Bradley S. Shear, LLC. All rights reserved.

NOTE: I would have uploaded the video in a more timely fashion but I was having technical difficulties uploading the video from my computer to Blogger so I finally uploaded the video to YouTube and then uploaded the segment from YouTube to Blogger. I have no idea why I was not able to upload the video directly to Blogger.