Are Viral Stories Like
"Gorilla Glue Girl" Really
Newsworthy or Exploitative?
Are Viral Stories Like "Gorilla Glue Girl"
When unbelievable stories like what happened to Tessica Brown, the woman who used Gorilla Glue as hair gel, begin circulating on social media it can be tempting to localize the issue for your own newscast. But are these stories newsworthy? Or are they just exploitative?
Several local news stations have published Tessica’s story on their Facebook pages, and if you read the comments you’ll find several derogatory, racist and sexist statements from callous viewers. On social media, people seem to have no qualms typing up the most hateful comments about viral stories.
Sure, these streams of vile comments help the engagement numbers, and make the digital managers happy. But, at the end of the day, the question remains: Did this actually serve your viewers?
Most of the time viral stories like the “Gorilla Glue Girl” offer little to no news value.
You might hear a colleague argue, “but kids might watch the video, and we must warn parents to inform their children.” Well, that’s a very hollow argument when you consider the number of ridiculous pranks, stunts, and made-for-tv moments people stream online every minute of the day.
If this argument were valid, every newscast would be dedicated to alerting parents to the latest most dangerous social media stunt. For example, “Coming up at 6… Why chugging a 12-pack of Pepsi before back flipping into a pool could be a threat to your child’s health.”
Another argument may be that, “Everyone is talking about it.” In that case, the story is by definition not newsworthy—because if everyone already knows, you’re not adding anything new to the discussion.
Just because something is trending online doesn’t make it immediately important for your viewers.
Ask yourself: Other than giving them an “oh my god” moment, did your viewers gain anything from your report? If the answer is no, then that invalidates the previous argument.
In Tessica’s case, she needed surgery to remove the Gorilla Glue from her hair, and was able to raise more than $13,000 in one day on GoFundMe. Now this is an example of how going viral can really impact a person’s life in a positive way.
If you use this argument to justify posting or airing a story about a viral moment in social media history, then okay, we’re closer to a news story.
In this case, ask yourself how you’re framing your story. And, if you’re the anchor reading it, think about how you’re going to talk about it during cross talk. If you’re laughing with your meteorologist, and joking that the woman is a moron, that’s insensitive and cruel.
Asses the seriousness of the subject that’s become a public spectacle, and consider whether this is a person in pain. At the end of the day, we are professionals, and how we decide to talk about a video like Tessica’s reflects who we are to our viewers.
Be kind when weighing in on stories where a person is compromised in some way, and ask yourself before airing these videos, “What is there to be gained?” 💜