Thursday, July 14, 2011

What Integrity USA Can Learn From the Casey Anthony Trial

by Louise Brooks, Director of Communications

Time Magazine dubbed it "the social media trial of the century."

If, by any chance you've managed to miss the media blitz, Casey Anthony is a young mother put on trial for the murder of her daughter in a case compared to the high-profile courtroom dramas of O.J. Simpson and the Menendez brothers. The Anthony Trial -- if there were any doubts before -- became a full-fledged national legal spectacle last week after outrage erupted over the jury's decision to acquit her on charges she killed her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee, with chloroform and duct tape. It was a sad story from beginning to end and there were truly no winners in either the trial or in the verdict. But there were some learnings.

The use of cell phones and social media were huge players in  bringing this case to the forefront of national attention. Within a minute of the verdict, there were hundreds of thousands of posts on Facebook with comments, some condemning the verdict and some to honor the dead two year old child. "Porch Lights on for Caylee" had over 900,00o "Likes" in literally minutes.

Twitter blazed with righteous indignation over what was widely viewed as a surprise verdict. The case generated untold number of tweets, including from the 9th Judicial Circuit Court itself, where the case was tried. Even celebs tweeted their horror over the "not guilty" decision.

Everybody had an opinion and they let it be known. They became "opinion makers" and their positions were discussed by everyone else who had an opinion. This has never happened before. But it is a sign of the future.

What Integrity can learn from this "social media trail" of the century is that each and every one of us can be an opinion maker as well.

Integrity USA has a Facebook page. Anyone can post to it. Many folks post links to stories they want to share and that's a great start. But consider this: You can also put forth opinions and engage in discussions of topics related to Integrity in particular and to the Episcopal Church in general.

You may want to talk about the changes you'd like to see in your diocese or to ask others to discuss theirs. Or start a dialogue on how about the latest thinking on civil versus religious marriage is influencing the marriage equality movement; the proposed Anglican Covenant; the new Episcopal Church media marketing plan … well, the list goes on and on.

We are increasingly becoming a “multi-platform” culture – with multiple ways to communicate as individuals and organizations. We know that Integrity members and friends can and do make a difference each and every time we step up and speak out. What we learn from the Casey Anthony trial is that we have the tools at our disposal to make our opinions count.

Learning to effectively use social media to make our voices heard is another way to “believe out loud” – to be agents of change in our church and in our culture as we proclaim together the good news of God’s inclusive love.

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