What happens on the Internet stays on the Internet (and beyond)

By Mary Brooke Stubbs


(Photo by Monica Schipper/Getty Images for New York Comedy Festival)

NBC News Anchor Brian Williams under scrutiny after false story. (Photo by Monica Schipper/Getty Images for New York Comedy Festival)

Social media sites continue to grow in popularity, but the more popular social media sites, such as Twitter, Facebook and others are becoming, the most scrutiny users are receiving.

Gone are the days when you could say something you regretted, and people would eventually forget about it, not mentioning it again.

With the Internet, almost everything you publish online stays online, even if you delete it on the original website. It is archived all over the web through images and independent websites tracking tweets, videos or statuses.

This also applies to TV show anchors or reporters when they slip up and say something they regret.

An example of this is the Brian Williams controversy.

Brian Williams went to a New York Rangers game in late January with U.S. Army Command Sergeant Major Tim Terpak. The public announcer at the game said, “Terpak was responsible for the safety of Brian Williams and his NBC News team after their Chinook helicopter was hit and crippled by enemy fire” during the 2003 invasion in Iraq.

Terpak and Williams were both praised in the video posted online.

Lance Reynolds, the flight engineer of the helicopter, wrote a Facebook status addressing the video after it was posted online.

Reynolds said he didn’t remember Williams being in the helicopter. Instead, he remembered Williams walking up to the helicopter an hour after they landed to ask what happened.

The rest of the helicopter crew confirmed what Reynolds said by saying Williams was not on the helicopter that was hit by ground fire in Iraq.

Brian Williams apologized on Facebook on February 4, a week after the video was posted online, saying he made a mistake and was not on the helicopter that was hit by enemy fire in Iraq. Instead, he was in the helicopter behind them.

Williams slip up quickly spread across social media and started the Twitter hashtag: #BrianWilliamsMisremembers.

Williams apologized again on TV saying, “You are absolutely right and I was wrong.” The damage was already done, however.

On February 10, NBC announced that they were suspending Williams, the anchor of “Nightly News,” for six months without pay for misleading the public.

The Brian Williams controversy shows how one slip up on TV can spread like rapid fire on the Internet and garner real consequences.

What we can learn about from the Brian Williams controversy in public relations is you must be careful with what you publish online, whether it is professional or personal.

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