A few media outlets have picked up on my story from last week about KARK’s grossly insensitive use of the death of 4-year old Caleb Linn to bring attention to their social media accounts.
One story was posted on Monday by Arkansas Business. It was also in their print edition this week.
After reporting the discovery of Linn’s body, KARK posted the following message on its Facebook website: “Click ‘like’ below to send your prayers to the family of Caleb Linn during this difficult time. You may also leave condolence messages below.”
The Facebook post suggests rather boldly that a click on the TV station’s social media page not only is the same as a prayer, but is also a way to send that prayer to a bereaved family at a site more than 140 miles from KARK’s office.
Very well said by AB’s Kate Knable.
A local blog, Arkansas TV News Watch, also picked up the story.
I had been considering making some follow-up comments and now that the story has gained some more attention, it seems it is appropriate to do so.
After my original post about KARK’s use of Caleb Linn’s death, I had a few questions from our readers about why I was so upset about this: “What is KARK gaining by asking for people to share the story and pray?” I had a few more questions after KARK’s second offense regarding Coach Bobby Petrino earlier this week. So it occurred to me that everyone may not be aware of exactly how some of these social media functions work. Let me attempt to explain.
First, Facebook: When KARK asked people to ‘like’ and comment on their post about Linn’s death, they were asking for much more than the click of a button and a few words of sympathy. Depending on your Facebook settings and the settings of your friends’ accounts, your ‘likes’ and comments will most likely appear in your friends’ tickers & possibly even on their newsfeeds. So every time someone responds to the post, a few hundred of your Facebook friends see it and, ideally, flock to KARK’s page. It’s called free advertising. It’s why business & organizations use social media.
Now, let me explain the implications for Twitter: KARK was asking for ‘retweets’ of this story from their Twitter account. Retweets are a process by which Twitter users click a button and redistribute another user’s update to all of their friends/followers. So in this situation, users would ‘retweet’ KARK’s post and it would be sent out to anyone who follows that user. It would include KARK’s name and, ideally, KARK would gain followers from the redistribution of the tweet. It also served to drive traffic to KARK’s website. More free advertising, hidden under the guise of ‘prayer.’ (which is another problem within itself–abusing the concept of prayer)
So I hope now that those of you who are not as social media savvy can see more of a complete picture. I apologize for not explaining this further on the front-end of this story. Sometimes I assume that everyone is as zombified by social media as I am.
Now you can see that the insensitivity runs much deeper than the semantical awkwardness of asking someone to ‘like’ a story about the death of a child–even though that in itself is plenty offensive. KARK is receiving a real benefit for what they are doing. Regardless of their motives, in reality, they are using the death of a 4-year old child for self-promotion. It’s exploitation and it’s disgusting.
Arkansas Business also reported that they have contacted the GM of KARK for comment on this situation. If they respond, we will have the full statement here.