Don’t mess with the press

10 August, 2010

There have been a couple of stories already this week that have illustrated just how hard it is now to stop both the media and the general public from talking about you – and the harder you try, the more they talk.

For some reason, Southampton FC’s executive chairman Nicola Cortese made the decision to ban national and local newspaper photographers from the game. Suffice to say both the local and national press didn’t take too kindly to being forced to use official photography. The Sun used the first part of its match report to complain about the decision and then for the rest refused to name Southampton, instead just calling them ‘the opposition.’

In contrast the Plymouth Herald newspaper hired artist Chris Robinson to sketch cartoons of the action resulting in some of the most unique pictures to accompany a match report in memory.  The second of the two is frankly brilliant and a trend that I’d like to see more of in football stories.

Also in the news is Tory MP Dominic Raab who has demanded his email be removed from website 38 Degrees as he doesn’t have time to go through all the emails he gets a result. The website has refused to back down (supported by the Information Commissioners office) saying that as an MP, his email address should be public. Suffice to say that as a result the story went viral on Twitter and this morning appears in many of the day’s papers gaining the hapless MP even more publicity (and no doubt emails) than he ever would have got originally.

The lesson for everyone here? Sometimes, no matter how much you think something is a good idea, it’s best not to take on either the media or the internet…

(Image from The Daily Nation)


The police are listening

13 May, 2010

Must be a slow news day at the BBC. A man from Brighton was ‘shocked’ to find out that the local police force in Brighton were following him on Twitter. That’d be Twitter, the publicly viewable site where anyone can follow your updates unless you make your profile private. The one where if you mention certain keywords you quickly acquire a whole load of extra followers trying to sell you something from that industry.

Ssshh, the police are watching

As the spokesperson for the Police in Brighton said, “We use Twitter to engage with the community in a really immediate way. It’s really helpful for us because we can allay any fears or rumours going round.
We can also engage with them and ask them what they want. It’s better than traditional media in that sense.”

Quite. It’s hardly like you’re going to pick up people tweeting “just broken into a house, ROFLMAO,” but instead you might see people in the area complaining about the noise or something relevant where you can get in touch quickly to address these concerns. Twitter isn’t just a medium for businesses and the media, there’s no reason at all why public bodies such as the Police shouldn’t get involved to speak directly to those they serve.

Of course it can go completely overboard as the ‘joke’ tweet about blowing up an airport showed in what has to be one the most ridiculous court cases and conviction in memory.

Taking the fun out of Twitter

10 May, 2010

Reuters has reported that President Barack Obama has taken a swipe at the social media platforms that arguably catalysed his own rise to power. Addressing students at Hampton University, Virginia, yesterday, Obama criticised our 24/7 media environment for distracting and entertaining rather than empowering the masses. “This is not only putting new pressures on you. It is putting new pressures on our country and on our democracy”, Obama said.

Interestingly, Obama also highlighted the importance of education in sifting through the many voices “clamouring for attention on blogs, on cable, on talk radio” in order to define what is ‘true’. He said that the reduction in barriers to entry to blogging platforms, which are now relatively simple to use, means “even some of the craziest claims can quickly gain traction”.

Now, I have to agree with the distracting qualities of social media; ask any undergraduate how the likes of Twitter and Facebook have impacted on their education and they will no doubt report hour upon hour of detrimental procrastination at the hands of these platforms! However, I can’t help but feel it is slightly hypocritical to criticise social media tools for imposing new strains on the operation of democracy whilst simultaneously demonstrating a dislike for the masses communicating freely. Essentially then, now that international social media platforms are increasingly accessible to every Joe Bloggs, we must educate people as to who they ought to listen to and who they shouldn’t, thus effectively removing the voices of the less politically desirable.

And there was me thinking that freedom of speech was a fundamental element of democracy.

Ironically, back in the UK our social media platforms exploded throughout the course of this year’s election and created a louder, wider-reaching publicity battle than ever before as political conversation enticed previously untapped audiences. The result? No clear winner and a hung parliament declared, which has consequently taken the right of choice away from the nation and a decision is now likely to be negotiated between the powers that be themselves.

Perhaps Obama had a point.

The social media election

16 April, 2010

First of all, is this really a ‘social media election’?

On the back of the successful Obama campaign politicians everywhere have been talking about the potential for social media and how it will shape this election. Social media is already playing a major role, with Rory Cellan-Jones of BBC news regularly analysing Twitter trends and sentiments, and several politicians, including Sarah Brown, tweeting regularly.

While it would be mad to suggest that social media alone could decide an election, it could however make a real difference with things so close between the three major parties.

Social media not only allows politicians, (and their significant others), to directly reach out to the public, (over 1 million in Sarah Brown’s case). It also allows them to track the sentiment and reactions of its users; something that was particularly interesting from the first TV debate.

This extra ‘human’ element to the campaign adds a new dimension that was tricky, if not impossible, during the last election. Even a simple reply to a tweet can make someone feel as though their point of view is important or that people are listening; an obvious vote winner.

By tracking Twitter and forums the reaction of the public to debates and news can be analysed instantly. People are more likely to be honest on their Twitter account or a forum compared to being interviewed by either a journalist or a polling company.

In November of last year stats showed that the UK makes up 8.2% of Twitter’s roughly 6 million registered users. This is set to be one of the closest elections in years and the party that does a good job of reaching out through social media could tip the balance in their favour.

Image taken from the excellent Matt.


18 January, 2010

While it’s fairly well accepted now that joking about any sort of airport terrorism is a daft idea, it still seems a tad overkill to arrest someone for a Twitter comment, confiscate his laptop, iPhone and home computer. However that’s what happened to a Doncaster man who, frustrated with the airport’s closure in the snow, threatened to blow it up unless it was cleared in a week.

Any sort of airport related threat, particularly taking into account the last few months, isn’t the brightest thing in the world to write, but still, you’d imagine the police would have been able to work out pretty quickly that this was a poorly thought through joke. Maybe even pop round his house and explain just why it wasn’t the best idea. However questioning him for almost seven hours does seem a little over the top. Let alone taking into account that after he was released on bail, he was suspended from work pending an internal investigation and has been banned from Doncaster airport for life.

Obviously there needs to be some sort of common sense applied to the Terrorism Act and our right to freedom of speech. Surely for the Terrorism Act to work properly and for the police to be able to do their job they need the support of the public, and ridiculous over the top reactions such as this just ruin the credibility of both the police involved and the act itself.

Sense at last

23 December, 2009

It is good to end the year on a topic that regulars will know is close to my heart – social networking.

Lily Allen gave me that warm Christmassy glow when I read that she has dumped all her Facebooking and Tweeting in favour of normal face to face communication. “So I put my BlackBerry, my laptop, my iPod in a box and that’s the end. I won’t use email, I play records on vinyl, I don’t blog. I’ve got more time, more privacy. We’ve ended up in this world of unreal communications and I don”t want that. I want real life back,” she has said.

The burning question is how many of the rest of us could actually join her in this radical move? I am a great believer in the phone call rather than email, especially  in personal situations, but there are times when only the latter will suffice – contacting Charles Arthur for instance.

It is really annoying when you are with someone who spends their whole time checking their iPhone/Blackberry – but it does give you the chance to just sneak a glance at yours!

So, in a social networking way may I take this opportunity to wish you all a very Happy Christmas and a great 2010 – I would call you all personally but I don’t have your number. (Click here for our special Christmas message )

Tweet wars

14 December, 2009

Twitter and social media has always been used by the police to keep an eye on the less than intelligent ones who decide to brag about whatever crimes they may have committed , but now it’s been taken to the next step with the news on The Next Web that gangs in New York are using Twitter to arrange fights and generally wind each other up.

One tweet said ““I knoe bi**hes from oyg that would dead mob yah s–t in harlem,”  wrote one girl.

Erm, yes, what she said.

The obvious drawback is that the Police can see who is saying what, despite the profiles being made private, although they’re also trying to confuse the police by using complicated slang which has certainly bewildered me.

I doubt this is the first case where fights or worse have been arranged through Twitter, but it’s the first time that I’ve heard about it, and I’m sure Twitter will follow the lead of Microsoft and Google by giving the Police access to data to help them out.

Photo from