Why A Live Twitter Feed On Your Billboard Might Not Work Out

The folks at WPMI-TV in Alabama had an idea. They decided to rent an electronic billboard and stream the station’s live Twitter feed to it. What could possibly go wrong?

According to Lagniappe, a local bi-weekly, the general manager and news director of the station have both been suspended over the incident. Harsh, man. Harsh.

WPMI GM, ND Suspended Over Billboard [Lagniappe via Freakonomics]


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  1. GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

    So a bunch of management decided and allocated the money for the billboard and patted themselves on the back because they were so progressive, and when it does what it is supposed to, i.e. displaying a news headline, two people who did what theyw ere told to get suspended. This actually makes me angry now instead of laughing.

    • Cant_stop_the_rock says:

      Why do you assume that it was someone above the General Manager and News Director who decided to put the billboard up? The general manager and news director would be pretty high up in a local TV station. It sounds like what happened was actually the opposite of what you think happened – the General Manager and News Director were suspended because the guy who updates the twitter feed “screwed up.” (I put that in quotes because I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect him to realize how that news item would appear on the billboard)

      You’d have a valid complaint here if it was the guy who updates the twitter feed got suspended because someone above him decided to put the twitter feed on the billboard.

      • Cant_stop_the_rock says:

        To be clear, I don’t think anyone should have been suspended for this. My point is that I don’t think this is a case of someone being the scapegoat for actions that came from above; instead it is a case of someone taking the fall for actions that happened below them. The reason being that they would have been expected to have the foresight to realize what might happen when that billboard went up, and should have had policies and procedures in place for vetting the content of the twitter feed to avoid this sort of incident. My opinion is that even with reasonable policies and procedures in place this still could have happened, because on its own the headline probably would not have been deemed inappropriate for the billboard. It is only when viewing it on the billboard that it becomes funny. For that reason I don’t think anyone should be suspended; it was an honest mistake, and really a harmless one I think.

      • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

        I just assumed that when the article said:

        The station’s corporate headquarters for Newport Television did not have any comment, as Vice President Charlie Henrick, who handles WPMI…

        that ordering a billboard was a corporate decision.

    • Eyebrows McGee (now with double the baby!) says:

      Also, having worked in newsrooms? Frequently the goal is to be as obscene as possible without being caught, often in stupid and immature ways that NOBODY EVER NOTICES but the guy who did it. We used to have a photographer who always cropped his shots of professor-types in their offices so the last book in the frame was one with a dirty title. And a designer who used to put 2-pt. text in 2-pt. borders around ads commenting on the ads until he got caught.

      It was probably just an accident, but it’s entirely possible some immature peon was giggling with glee while framing the tweet.

  2. rihan says:

    I honestly don’t see why everyone is making such a big deal out of this.

    • tundey says:

      I don’t get it either. Just take the darn twitter feed offline for a few hours.

    • lukesdad says:

      Alabama. It needs no further explanation.

      • Morte42 says:

        I’m gonna go ahead and guess that you’re one of those people who insults a place they’ve never been. You’re a huge contribution to the species. Congrats.

        • Smashville says:

          Having actually lived in Alabama, I would say that he didn’t say anything that is not factual.

          While there are intelligent, tolerant and literate Alabamans, I seemed to run into a larger population of the opposite than anywhere else. And considering I live in a city whose town square is fronted by a statue of a Confederate soldier, that’s saying something.

        • Preyfar says:

          I lived in Huntsville, AL for about two years out of my life, and… uh, yeah. On the whole, it wouldn’t be the association of “three accused of gang rape” and the newscasters, but just showing the word “rape”. In the Bible Belt, that’s a sin in and of itself.

          • diasdiem says:

            I’d love to post billboards all around the Bible Belt with excerpts from all the dirty parts of the Bible. Just to see who’d complain.

          • Smashville says:

            Birmingham here. One time, I walked out of of Bruno’s to a person handing out “Jews Will Rot in Hell” leaflets. While I’m sure that happens in other places, I’ve never encountered it…and shocked the hell out of me.

            However…Sneaky Pete’s…frickin deliciousness.

        • diasdiem says:

          I’m gonna go ahead and guess that you’re one of those guys who gets all butt-hurt when someone expresses an opinion you disagree with and assumes they really don’t know what they’re talking about.
          For all you know, he might live in Alabama.

        • admiral_stabbin says:

          For the record, I think Twitter is lame.

          The city council in the metro (state capitol) near me (I live in a ‘burb) tried to ban the first billboard in town that had movin’ pictures. This was within the past 2-3 years. I was in shock at the level of hick that some areas still have. They had more sophisticated billboards when I lived in Florida in 1989.

          Finally, it took me a couple of looks to connect the picture of the three people with the headline. I guess they should be thankful they have a pic of the perps? ;-)

          • manifesto-a-go-go says:

            Many states have restrictions against full motion video on billboards. It’s considered a potential driver distraction. For LED billboards you typically cannot refresh the image more than once every 10 or 15 seconds.

            • katstermonster says:

              They banned them in my hometown because the first moving LED sign in town was at Very Intimate Pleasures, a huge sex store, located immediately off a major interstate. Right across the road from the sign that says, “Welcome to Manchester, City of Village Charm.”

              The irony did not escape anyone.

        • lukesdad says:

          Indeed I have been there or I wouldn’t have made the comment. Also, it’s just a joke. Lighten up!

    • brodie7838 says:

      +1, news is news, being on a Twitter fed billboard doesn’t change the fact that the event happened and was reported on.

  3. West Coast Secessionist says:

    An unfortunately worded headline to accompany a picture of 3 anchors but what are you gonna do? Have someone in charge of censoring tweets that would look funny on a billboard?

    This is still a neat idea for a billboard, although I’d cut Twitter out of it and just have it showing their headlines directly. But that’s just because I think twitter is retarded.

  4. Zanorfes says:

    Unfortunate turn of events. Most likely, this wasn’t planned or done on purpose. It’s an internet fluke. Don’t blame the people who did their job!

  5. Coelacanth says:

    A “preview” button would have worked just fine and prevented the potential embarassment.

    No need to suspend anyone over it. The story becomes bigger news by tacking action against it.

  6. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    Who decides to post things on the Twitter feed? Weren’t they warned about where it would show up? It seems extremely harsh to suspend two people for being pretty clever – it seems like a honest mistake that there were three people whose photos accompanied an unfortunate headline. Things like this happen, it’s not as if it was done on purpose.

    I’m guessing a higher up got embarassed by it, and needed to take it out on someone. Or in this case, two someones.

  7. peggyhill says:

    Obviously a direct pipe from Twitter to a billboard was not the best idea ever had. As someone else stated, having a buffer to filter the trash from a newsroom Twitter page would have been helpful… However in my thinking, likely what may have happened was that this was a legit story posted and it just looked plain wrong on the billboard.

    • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

      I doubt it was “trash” from the newsroom, but the top headlines they tweet. In the future, they should have a little mock billboard with a hole in it, and they can stick it over the screen to see if will look “bad”.

      • FigNinja says:

        I’m guessing it’s less about the look of the headline with the three news anchors than the fact that some people are going to object to some news reports being displayed in a rather unavoidable public place. They may not want to explain about sexual crimes, violent crimes, etc., to their kids. Also, they may not want horrible stories like that intruding on them when they’re not prepared, if at all.

  8. jaydez860 says:

    I don’t see the big deal… anyone with any intelligence would know its just a headline and not relating to the 3 anchors pictured… people need to get a freaking clue and stop this crap all the time.

    • Rectilinear Propagation says:

      My thoughts exactly. It didn’t even occur to me to think that the ‘3 accused’ had anything to do with the picture of the reporters to the left. This is nothing to suspend anybody over.

      • DangerMouth says:

        Really, I read the article to see just what the offending tweet was, and found that it was the image shown above.

        Seriuosly, someone actually thought the 3 anchors were the rapists? oy.

    • Viciouspixie says:

      Agreed, I mean what kind of a world do we live in when we’re starting to censor news headlines because the look “wrong”? (or whatever they want to label it as)

      The event happened, it was news.. if someone saw it in a newspaper they wouldn’t think twice about it being out of place..

    • BluePlastic says:

      Totally agreed. I saw it and it didn’t even OCCUR to me to think that the picture had anything to do with the headline. The picture is OBVIOUSLY the news anchors/weatherman for that station – it looks like every other picture of news anchors/weathermen that has ever existed. It doesn’t go with the headline. Duh.

  9. ElizabethD says:

    What dumbo would actually conflate that tweet with the prettied-up photo of the news anchors? C’mon, WPMI.

  10. Smashville says:

    I fail to see the problem.

    If the station is so sensitive about the news they run, maybe they shouldn’t run the news.

    Anyone with half a brain can figure out that the headline doesn’t refer to the anchors.

    alabamajoke/And…since it’s in Alabama, no one can read it anyway/alabamajoke

  11. Digitizer says:

    This is priceless. That’s what news organizations get for dabbling in the young people’s toybox.

  12. diasdiem says:

    I’m gonna go ahead and guess that you’re one of those guys who gets all butt-hurt when someone expresses an opinion you disagree with and assumes they really don’t know what they’re talking about.
    For all you know, he might live in Alabama.

  13. VOIDMunashii says:

    Wow, at first glance I didn’t even realize that picture was of the offending tweet. I expected a lulzy story about someone cursing, or the account getting taken over or something. One would have to be truly stupid to seriously link that tweet with that picture.

    I guess it’s a good thing that The Three Stooges aren’t in the news then….

  14. El_Guapo says:

    I’m from Mobile AL, where this station is located, and found this on Digg flying back to BWI last week. Someone was seriously embarrassed over this, so someone’s heads had to roll.

  15. Admiral Byrd says:

    When I first read about this “mix-up” I didn’t understand what the problem was. Then I had to dumb myself down to the point that I realized that there are morons out there that would think that the twitter feed referred to the pictures of the news anchors. Still not a big deal.

  16. umbriago says:
  17. Bohemian says:

    The entire thing is a comedy of errors. People that don’t understand technology implemented twitter not really understanding how it works or the potential for far worse that what happened. The over reaction by the public. I found it amusing but nothing to get up and arms about. If something like this happened in SD there is the reliable contingent of the terminally offended who would be screaming about this too. Then the over reaction at the station resulting in people getting fired. Somewhere in all of this is an IT person who told them it was a bad idea but was promptly ignored.

    Just imagine what could have happened if their twitter account had been hacked?

  18. RecordStoreToughGuy_RidesTheWarpOfSpaceIntoTheWombOfNight says:

    Maybe they should have gone with a picture of the News Van on the billboard instead…

  19. fuzzymuffins says:

    just as hilarious as the “WARNING ZOMBIES AHEAD” construction sign hack.

    but we are now a generation of FAIL seekers, and of course it was only seconds before this snafu would leak. worth a chuckle, but not worth someone losing their job over. but as someone else said, a hack on their twitter account would have proven far worse…..

  20. DangerMouth says:

    The real joke is that this news organization has no one authorized to speak to the media:

    “According to several media-watching sites, Grandquest and Finley were suspended without pay, but Lagniappe has been unable to verify that. The station’s corporate headquarters for Newport Television did not have any comment, as Vice President Charlie Henrick, who handles WPMI, was out of the office until Monday and the person answering the phone could not find his cell phone number to reach him for a possible interview.

    Locally, calls to WPMI also met with similar results, as the person who answered the phone said both Grandquest and Finley were off for a week and there was no one in authority at the station. She said Grandquest is the only person authorized to speak with the media.”

  21. edguitar says:

    Epic Fail, I laughed a lot. The is a lesson to be learn when “grown ups” try to be hip the consequences are painfully hilarious BTW Twitter is Lame!

  22. trujunglist says:

    wow, they got suspended over it? that seems very harsh, man. Perhaps saying “HEADLINES” above it would’ve been a good idea, but c’mon, are we all 5 years old? dick jokes and that’s what she said are great for the 1000x time and all that, don’t get me wrong.

  23. whitenesss says:
  24. baddate says:


  25. Colonel Jack O'neill says:

    To me this is stupid, because it’s only a headline. I would like to read the rest of the story, and not just the headline. Just from that, it tells me nothing.

    From looking at that, I don’t get how people may think that they were accused of raped.
    But that just means, I’m not one of the 5% of stupid morons out there who would think that.

    Anyway twitter sucks, people don’t use correct grammar or punctuations on there.

  26. golddog says:

    Those are the best, happiest mugshots ever.

  27. Gingie822 says:

    That’s what they get for just setting up a live feed and not having an actual person managing the account! They could’ve learned a lesson from what happened with Skittles when they set the Twitter feed live on their homepage and then realized not everyone was talking about how much they loved the product!

  28. Gingie822 says:

    That’s what they get for just setting a feed live, and not having an actual person managing the account! They could’ve learned a lesson or two from Skittles experience, when they set the Twitter feed live on their homepage only to realize not everyone was gushing about how much they loved the product…

  29. PsiCop says:

    Wow. An inadvertent mistake causes suspensions? “Harsh” may be too mild a word for that!

  30. Raachie says:

    This is ridiculous. I mean really really ridiculous. Come on, can people really be that stupid to think that those are the three people who committed rape? What baffles me is I’m sure wherever this billboard is posted, I’m sure most people who watch the news know who these people are. And that they’re anchors. For the station this is advertising for. Seriously, this society has become a real pain in the ass. (SIGH) *Shaking head*

    • Optimistic Prime says:

      I was thinking the same thing. It took me reading the original article to figure out how it was “offensive.” I have a filthy, filthy mind too. If there was something there, I would’ve picked it up right away.

  31. Andrew360 says:

    The live feed idea is a good one. I don’t understand why we must add the Twitter brand to everything, though.

  32. eccsame says:

    That almost mad coffee come through my nose. ow.

  33. tresser says:

    3 out of 4 people like gang rape.

  34. nofelix says:

    Reading this I assumed the twitter account had been hacked and the ‘3 Accused…’ was a well thought out joke by the hacker.

  35. nodaybuttoday says:

    I actually had to read the comments to figure out what the problem was… I read the billboard headline separately from the photos of the anchors. That picture isn’t exactly a mugshot photo and I really didn’t see a connection until others pointed it out…

  36. sixpakal says:

    Hey, this was a really cool and innovative idea! Being able to view the most current news story while your stuck in traffic…amazing! It’s a big shame that stupid misconceptions like this will stop more billboards like these from being made.

  37. allstarecho says:

    lmao It took me a minute to figure out the issue here.. a headline tweet about 3 people accused of gang rape.. next to the picture of their 3 news reporters.. that shit right there is funny!