At 8:43pm last night, ABC News posted a ridiculously framed tweet about the terrorist incident in Oregon:

ABC Tweet

Denizens of the Twittersphere went ballistic, in response to this apparent double standard in journalism (White American armed takeover of Federal sites is “peaceful militia action”, while *anything* involving Muslims is a “terrorist cell”.) You can find some of the responses in the growing number of blog posts, such as this one from Raw Story.

In the face of this indignation, ABC News was sadly silent, and the trolls jumped in. The news organization’s inability to understand social brand management left the door open for erstwhile fans and trolls to take over their online brand narrative. ABC News seemed to think that ignoring the matter would make it go away…#OldSchoolMarketing

If something more interesting happens in the next 12 hours, they might get lucky, and the hubbub may abate somewhat. The damage is done, however, to any sense that their news brand is anything worth considering as “above” the fray. ABC News is now fair game, simply because they could not be responsive in the first hours of their mess-up. All they had to do (simply as one possible option among many available) was post one follow-up Tweet at 10pm, just over an hour after the first “unfortunately phrased” post: “Many viewers hold strong opinions about the situation in Oregon. We want to hear/share all reasonable views. Chat on [Periscope/Facebook] in one hour.”

ABC News could have hosted an online chat for exactly 30 minutes, with all the fair and not-so-fair comments that would have ensued, and then summarized with a nicely woven acknowledgement of the fact that “sometimes ABC does not frame a breaking news situation as effectively as – in retrospect – we would have liked to, and it is with the help and feedback of viewers and fans that the news team is able to get a better sense of…blahblahblah”…Thank everyone for their thoughtful comments and assure them you’ll “continue to work hard to responsibly explore and report on the stories that affect our lives and communities….blah blah blah…”

In short: be seen as responsive, and manage the narrative enough so it doesn’t look like you are completely tone deaf and out-of-touch. News obviously never quite works when you let it go the way of fanfic, as CNN has discovered. However, BBC News has been doing quite a good job, of late, using social tools to bring their news stories closer to their viewers and listeners. ABC News could learn a thing or two from them.