We live in a world of social media where our voices and our opinions feel as important as the number of people we can assemble to listen to us. For many that means having an audience of hundreds, maybe even a few thousand. For a lucky few that audience can number in the tens of thousands or even in the millions. When our voice seems to hold that much power, it’s difficult not use it. It seems that’s the case for Charlo Greene, the TV news anchor who brazenly quit her job on live TV last week in order to focus on her true passion, the legalization of marijuana in her home state of Alaska.
Greene is the latest in a string of television journalists to quit their jobs on air rather than compromise their personal values. Last spring RTNews ancnhor Liz Wahl resigned from her job at Russian funded RTNews rather than participate in that network’s alleged whitewashing of the Russian invasion of Crimea.
Last month, CNN Correspondent Lisa Desjardins posted a viral video on her YouTube channel containing a sardonic farewell to CNN. Desjardins had been a casualty of the most recent round of layoffs at the news giant and her light-hearted video contained a pointed jab at the network’s ability to provide serious news coverage while downsizing its staff. Desjardins’ following on social media soon took the video viral, focusing unwanted attention on the network and its scaled-down news gathering efforts.
CNN encourages and even helps its on-air talent to develop a large social media following. The same is true of RTNews and KTVA, where Charlo Greene once worked. In all three cases journalists making splashy exits from their jobs have used those social platforms to punch back at their former employers or to promote their own causes, proving that social media can be a double-edged sword for corporate news. Charlo Greene has parlayed her 15 minutes of social media fame into an IndieGogo campaign to support Alaskan Ballot Measure 2, a proposition that would legalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana for adults over 21.
New media fundamentally changes the balance of power between individuals and media organizations of all kinds. The power of social media and viral video has the potential to make a single individual’s voice as loud and as powerful as that of an entire network.