Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The "Woo-ford scandal": from outraged masses to mainstream media condemnation

Weblogs are the mavericks of the online world. Two of their greatest strengths are their ability to filter and disseminate information to a widely dispersed audience, and their position outside the mainstream of mass media. Beholden to no one, weblogs point to, comment on, and spread information according to thier own, quirky criteria.
(Blood, Rebecca. 2006. the weblog handbook 2006 [accessed 14 Dec 2011] available from

Less than 24 hours ago a wrote a blog "How Meryl Dorey took the last piece of my hippie soul and squashed it into the Woodford mud." Yesterday I commented about how blogs and social media (particularly twitter) had been outraged by the  inclusion of Meryl Dorey (of the disgraced Australian Vaccination Network) in the program of the Woodford Folk Festival. At the time of posting there had been little mainstream media attention (only a news article from mamamia and a radio segment on 2UE). Otherwise, it was only blogs covering the story. It is important to remember that while the 'shit-storm' was mostly contained within the on-line community Mr Bill Haurtiz, festival director, said "We’ve already entered into contracts with Meryl Dorey and we cannot break those contracts now. We’re 10 days away from opening the gates to the festival. The damage is already done."

That's right, "the damage is already done".

Anyway, I expressed that, in my opinion, it was wrong for the festival's public relations team to ignore the blogosphere. If Mr Haurtiz had heeded this warning, he my have avoided, what will prove to be, already is a PR nightmare.

Blogs are powerful, grass-roots journalism. Coupled with social media networking, blogs can be used as a tool for activism, and for gaining mainstream media attention. In the age of easy-to-use blogging sites (like this one; blogger), everyone can publish and distribute their news stories. Facebook and Twitter make for much faster distribution of that news than the traditional newsagents. And the multi-layering of information via hyperlinks allows the blogger to include  mammoth amounts of further reading. Some blogs reach an incredibly wide audience, some bloggers are very influential or important people, and still more bloggers have contacts in the mainstream media. And before you can say "Woo-Ford Scandal"- *BAM*-, you have some serious bad press on your hands!

The tale of PR woe which follows, is testament to why you don't ignore the bloggers.
Since yesterday, Woodford has taken an international battering. In the local media, the Brisbane Times have called for a medical doctor to counter Dorey's propaganda. Honestly, I think a right of reply is the least the Festival can do. 101.5FM  radio have stated that, apparently, the Morton Bay Regional Council do NOT endorse the "anti-vaccination campaigner".  The Sunshine Coast Daily have commented on the "media storm [which] has erupted over listing Meryl Dorey" at the festival. It was in this article that Mr Bill Haurtiz said that the matter will be referred onto the festival council.

So, let me get this straight, Mr Haurtiz. Yesterday there was nothing you could do. But today you realize that you can in fact refer the matter to the festival council? Interesting.

Woodford, in your arrogant dismissal of the power of the internet to reach and influence a massive audience, you have brought this "damage" upon yourself.

And, dear Mr Haurtiz, there is more direct action to come. We are gathering numbers. Blogs, it seems, can be used a 'call to action' as well.   

See these feet? They are the feet of grass-roots activism,
 and they're coming 
to a folk festival near you

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