We hadn’t heard of former Good Morning America executive producer Shelley Ross until yesterday, and she would probably prefer we never did.
Ms. Ross was featured in a Sunday Times round-up of ICorrect.com, which Ms. Ross pays $1,000 a year for the space to post rebuttals to what she sees as inaccuracies in blog and newspaper items lingering around the infinitely archiving web. Ms. Ross is mostly worried about coverage of her dismissal from CBS, which was documented with audible snickering by the Post, New York magazine, and even the Times.
“I was recently shown proof that two stories in particular, from 2007 and 2008, have been manipulated to reappear on the first page of my Google Search,” Ms. Ross wrote on her personal blog. Invoking Sarah Palin, Ms. Ross refers to the anonymous detractors as “blood bloggers,” calls ICorrect her “BFF,” and hopes it becomes as popular as the yellow pages.
We hope she’s not holding her breath. So far it’s unclear what ICorrect offers celebrities beyond what they could accomplish on Facebook or personal websites. ICorrect doesn’t require citations, which would at least give the rebuttals some legitimacy, and it’s algorithmically weak. ICorrect has yet to crack Ms. Ross’s first page of Google results. To rig that requires a little more web savvy or a custom consulting service, which costs more like $10,000 a month, as Ms. Ross knows if she flipped to the Style section of the same New York Times.
“Once something is online, it can be very difficult, if not impossible, to delete. So tweaking one’s online reputation usually boils down to gaming the search engines. Image-conscious people with an understanding of the Web’s architecture can try doing it themselves, by populating the Web with favorable content. That might involve setting up their own Web site or blog, or signing up for popular social networks like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn,” the Times wrote.
So far correction has proven a much weaker spin strategy than burial. Ms. Ross’s ICorrections have only drawn more ironic, if not outright mocking, attention, and led newcomers like yours truly to read up on years-old media beef we would have never otherwise seen. Does anyone ever come out of a defensive internet campaign with their reputation redeemed? Can a rebuttal be vivid enough to record over the tabloid hit piece in the collective memory?
Not if they keep getting anecdotes like this:
After CBS fired Ms. Ross, a colleague from her previous job at ABC, Charlie Gibson, reportedly muttered at a funeral they both attended over the weekend, “It took us six years to get rid of her. How come it only took them five months?”
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