Alabama Media Group’s director of breaking news Michelle Reedy Jones was once again the center of attention for something she typed recently after posting a tweet many thought was little more than a very insensitive suicide joke.
The Twitter tempest started Nov. 20 when Jones posted an item about the suicide last week of the husband of former Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris, who most famously oversaw the recount of her state’s presidential vote in 2000 that ultimately led to George W. Bush being elected. Many seemed to believe the hashtag Jones added to her tweet was nothing more than some inappropriate gallows humor.
“Former FL Secretary of State Katherine Harris’ husband dead of apparent suicide #hangingchad,” Jones wrote.
Almost immediately emails and Facebook posts were calling Jones out on her tweet. She found a particularly harsh audience among former Press-Register employees posting on the Bewildered Alabama Newspaper Readers Facebook page, a forum frequented by former P-R employees. Many there castigated Jones for being “tacky” and an “idiot.”
Jones defended herself both on the Facebook page and on Twitter, denying any kind of intended suicide humor with the hashtag and ultimately writing “I was thinking, ‘Katherine Harris = Hanging chads.’ Now, back to 10,000 other news items. Human. Fallible. Et al.”
But the tweet and backlash ultimately ended up going big as nationally known media columnist Jim Romenesko gave it play under the heading “Inappropriate Hashtag?” featuring Jones’ tweet and a comment by former P-R columnist Dan Murphy in which he tells her she needs an editor.
Jones, who was brought in last year as Mobile’s content editor for the Alabama Media Group, has been no stranger to high-profile social media gaffes. Early this year she tweeted about having to investigate two employees for plagiarism — though she said they were not al.com workers — and about the overall laziness of people in their 20s.
Jones followed that up in April by accidentally sending an email meant for her AMG superiors to many of her staffers. In that email she referred to some of those staffers as “turds.”
The attention from the hangingchad hashtag brought more than just negative comments from former co-workers and media critics, according to Jones. In a final post to the Bewildered page, Jones said she had actually been threatened.
“I have just received the first threatening email of my career, a threat that mentions my family. Would all of you like to celebrate that? I have small children. I have been bombarded for three days for a Twitter hashtag that not for one second was meant to funny, hurtful or even ironic. Mistake? Sure. But does my family, my daughters, deserve to be threatened for that? You all are right. Words have consequences,” she wrote.
Updated 12/5/13 to remove radio ratings data that contained errors.