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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

107.7 The End Responds: "Anonymity at its worst."

Posted by on Tue, Dec 29, 2009 at 12:29 PM

Just got off the phone with Mike Kaplan, the Program Director of Entercom, the company that owns 107.7 The End. We talked about The End's recent Twitter posts, which endorsed religious/racial profiling to combat terrorism (You can catch up on the story here.)

Kaplan, who is on vacation in New Orleans, insisted that the Twitter feed was hacked. He called it "anonymity at its worst." When I asked who Twitters for The End, he said "We have a small staff, and less than half a dozen people have access to that account. Basically, I don’t want to get too in-depth with personnel issues," he said, citing legal obligations to his employees.

When asked what The End's responsibility in this matter is, Kaplan responded, "We’re guilty of being negligent and not paying too much attention around the holiday to our [Twitter] account. It’s a good lesson to learn. We’re going to have a lot of safeguards from now on. We’ve taken measures right here and right now."

Kaplan doesn't know how or when the account was hacked. When I asked how it remained hacked for so long, he said the station is running on autopilot through the New Year. "We unplugged during the Christmas season. We have special programming on right now. I’m in New Orleans, the rest of the staff is in different parts of the country." Kaplan said he woke up early this morning, read his e-mail, and immediately took action to delete the posts and put up an apology. "If you see our [normal] tweets, we don’t engage in this stuff," Kaplan said, meaning political issues.

Kaplan cites the poor financial climate for the lapse in the station's Twitter account. "We’re guilty that we do have a small staff and that we’re not on 24/7. Economically, it’s difficult to manage. I, as a manager, need to make decisions about how we can better adapt at assigning these responsibilities." Will they try to find the hacker? "I don’t know if we’re going to eventually track down who did this. I hope we do."

Slog readers who wrote to the station received e-mails reading as follows:

Apologies for the mixup - Please see the revised Twitter page that reflects the correct information. Thank you for your comments and your listening/following of our station. We hope to be your continued station of choice.


Comments (23) RSS

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So, no one's minding the store... Shocker there!
Posted by moo on December 29, 2009 at 12:49 PM · Report this
Baconcat 2
Let's ask the obvious question: is there nobody on-staff who pays attention to their twitter account?


What makes it even more problematic for Entercom is that none of the staff felt these views were inconsistent with those of Entercom and failed to report these fairly awkward tweets to anyone with even a modicum of control over the account (and by all accounts there are at least 6 people who do have total access).
Posted by Baconcat on December 29, 2009 at 12:50 PM · Report this
What gets me is The End would have us believe a "hacker" gained access to their Twitter account and used the keys to the corporate castle to do nothing more than engage in a dumb and oddly civil conversation on the merits of racial/ethnic/religious profiling. Does that sound believable? If it was a hacker, what a loser! Grow a set and do some real damage!
Posted by FuManShoes on December 29, 2009 at 12:59 PM · Report this
again, it's bullshit. he knows who did it.

they thought this was ok and they got called on it and lied.

i wonder if their advertisers share their views on profiling? i mean they support a station that does.
Posted by admit it, end on December 29, 2009 at 12:59 PM · Report this
There was one tweet on 12.25 that was a little weird, but not weird enough to cause a full scale fire drill (with a couple people posting on the account, it could be assumed that it was posted by someone else)

The bulk of these tweets came late last night, we caught wind of it early this morning and did everything we could to erase/fix/apologize. Obviously a very unfortunate incident that we wish didn't happen while we were all away on vacation for the holiday's.

Posted by harms107 on December 29, 2009 at 1:05 PM · Report this
robotbutler 6
I don't know if I buy either story. (harms or Kaplan) I don't tweet so if I'm wrong correct me, but I'm quite sure there are at least a handful of employees @ 1077 that do. Most likely via mobile phone & they are surely "following" their own station. The shitstorm seemed to start almost immediately after the post with @ least a few people voicing their disgust. 1-2 days? Maybe. 4 days & somebody just noticed this morning? I call bullshit.
Posted by robotbutler on December 29, 2009 at 1:16 PM · Report this
Big lesson here: if your business is on twitter, the owner/manager should have a twitter account and follow the business. Twitter is all about immediacy - immediate action would have alleviated a lot of the flack they are getting about this.

I seriously doubt a hacker would have engaged with the End's followers in that way. Misguided intern, yes. Hacker, no. I don't believe their explanation. If someone tweeted, "Thanks for following y'all. We'll be off twitter til Monday" before the holiday, I'd maybe believe it was a hacker. Did this cost them followers, or draw attention to their feed and help them gain followers?
Posted by meeps on December 29, 2009 at 1:22 PM · Report this
Fnarf 8
Hacker my ass. Lazy 1980s bullshit. There's no such thing as a "hacker" 99% of the time. I'll bet twenty, thirty people had access to the account. I'll bet no one has any idea who they all were. I'll bet when the interns turn over every three months they never change the password.
Posted by Fnarf on December 29, 2009 at 1:23 PM · Report this
@Baconcat I completely believe it (it being no one caught it), no one is answering phones, or has been for days. There aren't live DJs right now. Most of the people who update the twitter are harms, red and greg (or people who update for them while they're on air) - who again aren't around. Even when they do update, updates occur when said DJs are on air, or during shows that the End is sponsoring (endfest, deck the hall ball, that sort of thing). For them to start throwing up updates when no on air personnel are broadcasting or end events are going on is definitely something I'd categorize as not normal. I don't know about you, but Christmas and the weekend following it is probably not the time I'm worrying about my job, especially if I've been given a vacation through the end of the year (as most of the people at the station have).

Furthermore, I've never seen the end be so overtly political with their tweets (or other official communications). I've seen them make semi-political statements in the past, sure. They sometimes have quotes from the late night shows about politics in their endmail. But none of those have really taken a stance one way or the other - and for obvious reasons. No one knows what the listener is gonna think politically and it's their job to appeal to the most amount of people possible - alienating someone over politics, when the station is specializing in alternative music, seems to be pretty obviously outside the mission statement. (Nevermind that the station seems to carry a somewhat liberal bent - there's a shocker eh?). These statements are so far beyond anything the End has ever put out in the past - it seems obvious to me at least that it's not something the station itself would endorse.

And one more thing - tweets outside this stuff ended on the 22nd (and there were what, a dozen tweets during the week? And that even with the actress dying) - there's something odd about them suddenly starting up again on just that one subject and nothing else - no advertising their end of decade countdowns, just getting political? Pretty odd. Nevermind the frequent responses - not to complain, but the official twitter account rarely goes out and has conversations with people, which makes sense.

All in all, it's behavior that's pretty out of the ordinary for them. Maybe not a hacker, but also definitely not someone who was in any way authorized to post that. And right now, no one probably knows who, so I wouldn't expect Kaplan to say Intern BillyBob did it, and he's gonna face consequences.
Posted by coren on December 29, 2009 at 1:37 PM · Report this
@robot - yeah I bet that station personnel, including DJs and Kaplan follow the twitter.

But who knows how many go so far as to get their updates broadcast to their phones - which means going on over the Christmas weekend to check twitter. And many people won't do that, nor do I think many people would have had reason to.
Posted by coren on December 29, 2009 at 1:40 PM · Report this
This is what happens when you cede local control of media generating lose a tight line of accountability.
Posted by Chris Jury on December 29, 2009 at 1:41 PM · Report this

Sounds like an intern to me.
Posted by coren on December 29, 2009 at 2:00 PM · Report this
@Chris Jury -- No, this is what happens when a company of any size and ownership structure embraces (or grudgingly adopts) a social media platform predicated on immediacy and turns the lights out for weeks at a time. I'm sure plenty of small-time mom and pop operations are guilty of the same thing. The End's operational practices during the holidays seem woefully out of sync with the distribution and promotional platforms they employ. I accept that they likely got burned by a current or past staffer and don't endorse the Tweet, and I think they are trying to defuse it all by blaming a "hacker," but I also don't think media consolidation is to blame -- for this.
Posted by FuManShoes on December 29, 2009 at 2:05 PM · Report this
Baconcat 14
@9: So if it's out of the ordinary, why didn't anyone do anything about it until they were called out? It's fucking stupid to assume that not a single person with any modicum of control would have access to the twitter account and not get the tweets posted sent to a nearby-at-all-times device, especially since this went on for days.

Moreover, there's absolutely no way in hell there weren't any direct messages, which e-mail directly to anyone with access to the account.

No, this was a non-issue to staff until people started getting pissed off. And it's likely that someone with some kind of sway like an advertiser began calling. Even on the holidays, a radio station that broadcasts 24/7 will have some measure of staff available most of the day, and a lot of sales execs give out their phone info to big advertisers.

So fail. Fail fail fail.
Posted by Baconcat on December 29, 2009 at 2:13 PM · Report this
@14 because they weren't paying any attention. People obviously had and have access to the twitter account, but I bet most of them didn't do a thing because it was the holidays and they weren't paying any attention to it. I certainly didn't check my work email until Monday morning, starting Wednesday afternoon - it's not hard to believe that others didn't do the the same. Also isn't hard to believe that a person who was getting twitter sent to their phone got more than just the station and glanced over it - especially as I doubt they'd have set it so all the replies also came to their phone.

And the direct messages probably email to one address that one person (Kaplan, maybe, maybe someone else) checks - I doubt they have it set to go to everyone, that'd just be a pain in the ass given the volume they'd get. That or it goes to their station emails, which - you guessed it, they're not checking.

As for getting a hold of someone, you'd need a direct studio line or to know the name of the person you wanted and have them be at their desk/checking their voicemail. Or personal email. Which I doubt anyone complaining about this on twitter had. Maybe some assistant engineer (that's who's running the station right now btw) became aware, but probably couldn't fix it and wasn't sure what to do about it (calling my boss in New Orleans or wherever because of twitter? not sure I'd want to be that guy).

It was a non-issue because no one who could do anything about it knew about it. These people work for a radio station, and none of the higher ups are newbies - if they knew about it, they'd fix it. They know better than that, they know their audience, and most of their audience would be in staunch disagreement with it, nevermind what an advertiser typical to the End would think. They're an alt. rock station in Seattle, they know what message they're going to put out, and it's not "the muslims are terrorists, let's profile em!"
Posted by coren on December 29, 2009 at 2:30 PM · Report this
@13 - I would disagree. Media consolidation/ conglomeration is what allows the bulk of accountable staff to all be on vacation at the same time, because they really aren't necessary for the actual operations of the station. Unless you intend to hold an unpaid intern or a advertising sales rep accountable for content (and good luck with that). A Mom and Pop station, such as KSER in Everett, would actually be much less likely to have such a problem, because such a station, by definition, isn't relying on piped in programming, and therefore would at least be on hand to accept responsibility.

The sole purpose of a media outlet is to provide a framework through which we consume information. The media put forth through 107.7 via radio, twitter, website, or what have you determines its value to us. If the station is simply acting as a relay and is, as they say, on autopilot for long periods, then does it cease to be primarily a Seattle station? Does its local affiliation dictate what in economics is called Goodwill (the value of a brand beyond its real assets)?
Posted by Chris Jury on December 29, 2009 at 3:08 PM · Report this
@13 nailed it. Small staff, only a few ever tweet. A staff person posted that stuff, and the boss only finds out once people start bitching to the station. Boss comes down to the two or three people who have access saying, "what the shit are you posting on our twatter dohickey? I keep getting nasty phone calls and emails!" Staff person A shrugs and says he hasn't posted anything for weeks. Staff person B (the one who actually posted that shit) takes the easy way out: lie. (wouldn't you?). It's easy for staff person B to blame a hacker because his boss is not tech-savvy and buys that BS. case closed.
Posted by happy renter on December 29, 2009 at 3:18 PM · Report this
Baconcat 18
@15: SFCH Alert!
Posted by Baconcat on December 29, 2009 at 3:21 PM · Report this
Another possibility: Someone with access to The End twitter account has a personal one too and updated from his/her phone, intending it for his/her personal feed?
Posted by Carylina on December 29, 2009 at 4:10 PM · Report this
@19 - Nah. That wouldn't explain the prolonged conversation between the hacker (intern) and followers/others who'd caught wind of the tweet. A stray tweet would be one thing, but the slog post below shows the many interactions this person had while being keenly aware they were wearing an End hat. Which begs the question: why would a real hacker be so ... boring?…
Posted by FuManShoes on December 29, 2009 at 4:14 PM · Report this
robotbutler 21
@10 Again, correct me if I'm wrong but I think the MAJORITY of tweets are read & posted via mobile device these days, no?
Posted by robotbutler on December 29, 2009 at 6:48 PM · Report this
@21 - I think it's a mix - every post will say what device (ping, tweetdeck, tweetle, mobile etc.) it came from - I happen to read and post to mine from the internet. No clue if that's typical or atypical.

No idea what SFCH means.
Posted by coren on December 29, 2009 at 7:51 PM · Report this
ok end ... you want to make it better? just post this:

We completely reject the idea of racial profiling. It is anathema to the ideals of this country, as proven by the times the United States has tried it before and the resulting consequences. Our company is committed to valuing diversity not only because it is good business (which obviously should overcome what lack of common sense we have), but because it is the right thing to do. We deeply regret that we have associated ourselves, our advertisers and the community organizations which with whom we partner, with this base reaction to a complicated world. We are ashamed of ourselves.

Secondly, we have badgered our listeners constantly to check our Twitter feed. We have intimated they will get regular updates on important information relative to our station and its listeners. Obviously, we don’t do this. We send followers noise that isn’t even reviewed by the managers of the station for the purpose of saying we are involved in Twitter. Since management and staff don’t , obviously, pay attention to our own Twitter feed, we have essentially begged you to go to a party that we would absolutely never go to as it is beneath us. We are guilty of, at best, being disingenuous, or at worst, actively wasting your time. For this we are deeply sorry and will now actually use our Twitter feed for announcements which materially improve our relationship with those who chose to follow it. This will, of course, mean we will reduce the amount of posts to about three a month. Please forgive us for exploiting your interest because some consultant told us to. Again, we are ashamed.
Posted by you were caught, just admit it on December 29, 2009 at 11:44 PM · Report this

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