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The Shirley Sherrod case was one of the most significant cases of 2010. She was the Georgia State Director for Rural Development, and was pushed into stepping down and resigning from her position in the summer of 2010. Shirley Sherrod, an African American woman, went under fire after a blogger named Andrew Bleitbart posted some video excerpts of her making some racially degrading remarks about white farmers during a speech she gave at an NAACP event in March 2010. Following the videos being posted online, the NAACP criticized her for her remarks, and the U.S. government demanded that she step down from her position. At a later point, upon review of the full version of the video of her speech, Sherrod was apologized to and offered another full time position (which she declined). Sherrod proceeded to bring on a suit against blogger Andrew Bleitbart, accusing him of defamation.

Sherrod’s situation and eventual law suit was a monumental one in the world of strategic communication. The Shirley Sherrod case brings about issues surrounding the ever-growing world of online social media. Far too many people, including our own U.S. government, take things that they view on the Internet as bible and an absolute truth. The fact that literally ANYONE can put ANYTHING on the internet is far too often overlooked. We, as Internet users, need to take everything we see on the Internet with a grain of salt. It seems obvious that the video excerpts from Sherrod’s speech were taken completely out of context, and everyone immediately bought into these videos and comments that some random blogger posted on the internet.

This also serves as a warning for all strategic communicators. Firstly, that we need to be careful with our word choice. At any given point, one’s words can be twisted and distorted into something that wasn’t intended at all. Word choice is everything, so be careful about what you say. Secondly, and from the opposite standpoint, strategic communicators need to be careful about what you put on the internet. Truth in communication is at the forefront of importance. Don’t put anything on the Internet that could be misconstrued as distorted or twisted information, or you could end up like Andrew Bleitbart and be getting sued for defamation.

Sources: http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-503544_162-20011249-503544.html

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