Sunday, June 27, 2010

What Does Dave Weigel have to do with Sermo?

Dave Weigel is a libertarian, right-leaning blogger who had been writing for the Washington Post. Although his politics veer right of center, he has no tolerance for the radical, wacky wing of the Republican Party (think Tea Partiers, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, etc.) Weigel was a member of the liberal-leaning listserv called JournoList (a private, by-invitation-only email group comprised of professional journalists and bloggers). JournoList provided a forum for these guys to exchange ideas with one another in an off the record fashion. Weigel, this week, in a moment of reckless writing, posted a thread on JournoList implying that the world would be a better place if Matt Drudge suddenly decided to self immolate.

Someone read the post and decided to break protocol. Ultimately, several of his off the record email posts were published for the general public on both the Daily Caller and FishbowlDC. Weigel subsequently resigned his position as a writer/blogger for the Washington Post.

The embroglio got me thinking social media and professionalism, in general. On places like Facebook and private blogs and Twitter accounts, people often present a far different characterization of themselves than the one they perhaps proffer in the office, at the hospital etc. Perhaps we sometimes trust too much that these two versions of ourselves do not overlap, that our secret rebellious, outgoing selves are secure behind passwords and restricted access walls. (This is why I don't do Twitter or Facebook--- Buckeye Surgeon is the sole source of learning about Dr Parks; no contradictions or duplicity. As long as I keep writing honestly, I don't feel any need to worry about reprisals.)

Sermo is a social network restricted to physicians (you have to give a verifiable medical license number in order to join). It's a great resource for docs. I've run cases by strangers on Sermo in real time while trying to decide upon an appropriate treatment plan for a difficult patient and have been aided immeasurably by the advice and comments I've received. But there are also posts about the political aspects of medicine and complaints about other specialties and rants about difficult patients and malpractice claims. And not everyone on Sermo chooses to be anonymous.

What if someone obtained access to Sermo for nefarious purposes? Perhaps a physician-turned-hospital administrator who went looking for dirt on a trouble-making internist. Or a malpractice attorney who used his brother-in-law's log-on ID to troll for cases.

Dave Weigel lost his job over a careless post on what he thought was a secure, private listserv. You figure it's not a question of if, but when, something similar will occur to casually flippant doc on a site like Sermo....


Anonymous said...

I'm a 21-yr old 1st year med student and as such I've heard a lot about how we young students should be careful on social networking sites. I remember reading some ridiculous story about med school administrations confronting students about what they put on Facebook... which is sooo not cool. But I guess they are trying to protect us, but more importantly their schools and the profession. I will prob have to increase security on my profile and pics. Although I'm no wild child, it's a little annoying. But I suppose that joining the medical profession means that I must present a very professional persona with regularity.

I guess we students are just somehow... different, or at least perceived as such by the public. It's kind of sad-I don't think that I'm on a higher moral plane than others. I do have fun. I take risque pics, and yes they do sometimes get posted.

Maybe it's selfish for me to think that medical students should be treated in a similar manner as.. oh i dunno, engineers, fire fighters, dental students, grad students, etc. As humans with emotions. Who have highs and lows. But I suspect that now that I've signed up for medicine, I will have to play 'the part'.

FaST Surgeon said...

In this day and age, you should consider everything that you write or say as discoverable. This is simply a fact.

I do not fear anything that I write, as I have numerous family, friends and co-workers who read my blogs and posts. It is they who keep me honest! :) They would put the smack-down on me as soon as I said anything stupid, wrong or misleading.

Emails, text, twitter, facebook, etc... are all discoverable. It is well known that you should not be recorded by any media, doing something that you would not want your mother to see or have published on the front page of the news.

As for the Anonymous medical student... "sooo not cool"? Its your life. Act the way you want. The consequences are yours for the taking. And if you feel that you "...will have to play 'the part'". Then I will impart my wisdom accumulated after some 25 plus years of trying to mature.... If you feel you can't be yourself.. you need to find something else to do.

FaST Surgeon

Anonymous said...

Many physicians lament that their private persona easily becomes public. I've warned my daughter heading to medical school to censor her FB pics to avoid problems getting a residency appointment and that first job. I don't think the fears or warnings are unwarranted as I've heard colleagues say "I was considering hiring X person until I saw her FB page". Negative web postings are difficult to remove. And those "public intoxication" arrests from spring break ten years ago will stay with you on your credentialing applications (and medical board consumer sites in some states). Sorry!

Anonymous said...

Does this answer your question?

At this point I would advise anyone that participating in social media is ill advised.

TMLutas said...

According to the rules of Journolist, no right of center people were allowed in. Only centrists and leftists allowed and that had been true since day one. Your characterization of Weigel was not how he represented himself to get himself an invite and not how he behaved on Journolist.

Weigel was caught doing more than saying bad things about conservatives. He tried to shape the news so that coverage by Journolist's members would be more hostile to conservatives. This, specifically, is what conservatives have always worried was going on behind the scenes in the "liberal media". He engaged in, and got caught at, conspiring to subvert normal journalistic ethics and he got canned for it. It was justified.

Jeffrey Parks MD FACS said...

Your post is a little dubious. He tried to "shape the news"? By exchanging emails with a bunch of already left leaning journalists? I don't get it. And to think that journalists don't have any personal opinions on policy matters is naive. Guess what: even Bob Costas has a favorite baseball team. An he probably discusses that favorite team with his buddies via email or real life chats. Unbelieveable I know.

Weigel was a good journalist. Making fun of propagandists and demogogues like Limbaugh and Hannity (who have assumed a far too prominent role in shaping Conservative opinion) is not an example of the "librul" media slanting the news---it's what a reasonable conservative ought to be doing...