Steinberg: Mark Giangreco busted for groping at the Twitter orgy


One of the great things about working at the Sun-Times: not many meetings.

Well, I’m sure somebody has meetings. I glimpse them through doorways as I’m hurrying out of the building.

Occasionally I get sucked into a meeting, like one a few weeks ago explaining the importance of doing what I’ve done for years: use social media, post to Facebook, tweet stories. We were reminded once again that we are no longer newspaper reporters but “digital storytellers.” I gazed at the phrase mournfully. They’ve been repeating that for years. What does it even mean? Digital storytellers. It has a whiff of kindergarten, of a robotic Mr. Rogers with a lightbulb nose and an LED red cardigan tinnily reading The Little Engine That Could to an audience of mechanical puppets. Is that our job now?

I was forming a comment along those lines, when I thought better. Shutting up is an art form. But I felt the need to say something, for the reason most people speak at meetings: to hear myself talk.

“Do you think we could get some guidelines for Twitter?” I asked, reminding my boss that Twitter is a minefield we’re expected to skip across several times a day.

A deeply disingenuous remark. You might be forgiven for assuming it meant that I wanted guidelines for Twitter, or expected some in the future, and I really did neither. We are nothing if not a lean news organization that counts on the professionalism of its individual parts to function without a lot of hand-holding. What I wanted to do was go on record in case I trip while tweeting. So if, one day, I step on the wrong spot and am blasted into the air, I can say, “I asked for direction. You were mum. And now you hang me out to dry.”

Shortly thereafter ABC 7 did exactly that to veteran sportscaster Mark Giangreco, suspended without pay for several weeks for calling Donald Trump “this cartoon lunatic” elected by “a country full of simpletons.”

OPINION

Talk about bad luck. Twitter is a free-fire zone, a one-against-all, all-against-one wasp’s nest of malice where edginess is rewarded and caution sits alone. Getting called out the way Giangreco did is like being kicked out of an orgy for grabbing somebody’s ass.

Giangreco is technically a sports anchor, but any sportscaster who stuck to the dry recitation of scores and injuries wouldn’t last long on TV. He’s expected to inject his opinions and humor in an appropriate way, except of course when he doesn’t.

ABC 7 didn’t say which part of the statement rankled. I’d assume it was the dismissing half their audience as idiots part. Frankly, I’d expect to get in trouble if I called one reader a simpleton, and would never do it. Plus, shifting gears a moment, a man who spent his career hobby-horsing through the low-wattage mental wasteland of TV sports reportage probably shouldn’t question anyone’s intellect.

Or heck, maybe it was using “cartoon” as a pejorative. ABC 7 is owned by Disney after all.

Giangreco’s suspension begins Monday. It’s ominous because while many corporations are trying to distance themselves from the anti-American infamy of the Trump administration, Disney is punishing a man for stating the obvious, crudely. Circling back to our “Let’s tweet more” meeting. Why would any professional ever tweet anything, given that every keystroke is standing on a wobbly chair and putting your neck in a noose? The answer is that Twitter is where the world exists right now. Trump — who called the press “scum,” remember, in his habit of labeling others with characteristics he himself personifies — tweets bile continually and look where it got him.

“Sports anchor Mark Giangreco’s Twitter comments are not in line with ABC 7 Chicago’s non-partisan editorial standards,” the station fretted, a statement more shameful than anything Giangreco tweeted.

“Non-partisan editorial standards?” Give us a flippin’ break, ABC 7. The house is on fire, and you’re yelling at the firemen for tracking mud in the hall. Donald Trump will not be brought down by Mark Giangreco snarking on Twitter — I assume that’ll take an investigation into treachery with Russia. But until the smoke clears, and Trump is a charred ruin cool to the touch, every American has a patriotic duty to stand firm, aim whatever hose he’s got, and pour water on the flaming disaster.



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