The story below is one way to generate a news story, but it’s probably not what this editor had in mind.
Justin Miller is a Senior Editor at the Daily Beast. He is also, of course, an active Twitter user; in looking at his profile as I type this entry, he’s tweeted over 40 times in the past 24 hours. Of course, some of that may be to bury previous tweets; Miller got himself into trouble on Twitter recently for a tweet he sent to Senator Rand Paul (R-KY).
Senator Paul started a national controversy when he made statements against vaccines, saying that they should be “voluntary” and, “I have heard of many tragic cases of walking, talking normal children who wound up with profound mental disorders after vaccines.” The overwhelming majority, if not totality, of scientific evidence favors the effectiveness and safety of vaccines.
In an attempt to step back from his controversial remarks, Senator Paul sent out this tweet:
Justin Miller, unimpressed with Paul’s attempt at a walk-back, tweeted the following:
Charming. The tweet was deleted shortly afterwards, but too late for it to escape notice. Unsurprisingly, Paul spokesman Sergio Gor attacked the tweet, saying that it was, “completely unacceptable for a journalist to be tweeting these type of comments.”
In a statement to Politico, Miller apologized for the tweet:
“I replied from my personal account to what I felt was spin after Senator Paul said factually incorrect things about vaccines,” Miller wrote. “It would’ve been better to respond with facts than an obscenity, and I deleted the tweet so it wouldn’t reflect on the Beast. I’m sorry for the insult.”
Ironically, it’s usually the journalists who cover it when a politician loses their temper on Twitter, but this time, the shoe was on the other foot. The same rules that apply to politicians when it comes to their social media use also apply to journalists: You must be fair and not insulting! And, one additional point: Above all else, do not become part of the story.