Digital age might make people forget to ‘assume every mic is hot’

Jun 14 2013 - 4:59pm


There is an old saying in radio: "Assume every mic is hot."


It was meant as a cautionary warning for broadcasters to help them avoid saying something they didn't intend to go over the airways. Despite this warning, many professional broadcasters today still find themselves violating the principle and living to regret it.

Now with the proliferation of media and technology to include almost anyone with access to a computer, smartphone or mobile device, there can be additional warnings.

In light of recent feedback and news events, here are a few addendums to the rule:

* If you march in a parade, expect someone to take your picture and publish it.

* There is no such thing as a private Facebook post or tweet.

* If you make a speech to boosters, someone will record it.

This month we covered the Utah Gay Pride parade in Salt Lake City. Our photographer took numerous photos of participants, as did other media and parade-goers. However, one participant contacted us to ask that we not publish his photo.

"I would like to ask that you respect my right to privacy and not print my name or my photo in the paper," the participant said in an email. "I am a proud supporter of gay rights and equality; however, because of work and some interview processes I am going through it would be detrimental to me to have a front page picture of me on a pride article."

The author then went on to describe what he was wearing, so we could readily identify the photo he didn't want published.

As it turns out, his was not one of the many photos our photographer took. We believe he may have confused us with another media outlet. However, Visuals Editor Robert Johnson gave some sound advice in a reply: "For future reference, if you are concerned about being photographed in public, I wouldn't recommend participating in a parade."

Kind of defeats the purpose behind a "pride" parade if you are ashamed to be there.

We also heard from a couple of readers who were upset that we published in our print edition their Facebook posts commenting on stories in the Standard-Examiner. The comments were taken from our own public Facebook page, but at least one reader pointed out that his comment was automatically shared to our page by one of his friends. He said his comment was only meant for the "Facebook Community."

The blending of social media and legacy media (newspapers, radio and television) has been going on for years. Many news organizations use social media as sources for stories, to promote content and to interact with their audience. This means sharing content among the various platforms. Those who post comments online, on Facebook or make tweets on Twitter are participating in a public network in which sharing content is its main purpose.

Posting a comment on any electronic platform is no different than standing up and speaking at a public meeting. Those who comment or post images on Facebook or Twitter shouldn't be surprised if their content ends up migrating to mass media.

Then there's Gordon Gee, president of Ohio State University and Utah native, who made jokes about Notre Dame, Catholics and the Southeast Conference during a speech to boosters. Media obtained recordings of the speech. Although his comments were made in jest, they didn't go over as well before a broader audience beyond that of college boosters.

In this digital age, there is no such thing as a friendly audience anymore. If you are talking to more than one person, then you are talking to everyone.

Andy Howell is executive editor. He can be reached at 801-625-4210 or


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