Arguably the most interesting local authority debate for years was started this week by an article on
www.thisiscornwall.co.uk on the self-proclaimed "Twitter Gang" of Cornwall Council. Cllrs Alex Folkes, Andrew Wallis, Steve Double, Jeremy Rowe and Rob Nolan had been labelled the "naughty schoolboys" of the council after it was revealed they had been tweeting from meetings.
Now, as a newbie tweeter myself, I was fascinated to see how this debate went. And it seems people have been really upset by it. Yes, it was childish to make fun of the chairman and ignore her instruction to turn off their mobiles. But it was also quite funny. And actually, I think many of the positive results of their tweets have been overlooked by people who think councillors should just be sitting, nodding, jeering and shaking their heads at meetings on their behalfs.
On Monday, I was actually following Cllr Andrew Wallis as he posted regular Twitter updates on the discussion in Cabinet about the future of Penzance Harbour. At no point did he give an opinion on what was taking place (his position on the strategic planning committee would have made it difficult for him to openly comment), he just gave a straight report of what was going on in occasional one-liners from his Twitter account. And I, for one, thought it was brilliant. I felt as though I was almost part of that meeting because I could find out what was going on in real-time.
He described himself as a "sort of at the scene Twitter reporter" in his blog later that day. And that's exactly what he was. Like millions of others across the world who are starting to inform the future of news through social media in this way, he was reporting what he saw and heard and informing the public. Now, I won't go into the debate over what effect these so-called "Twitter reporters" might have on newspapers as I'll be here all night. But I will say that I think keeping people informed in this way - or any other - can only be a good thing.
As for the audience for these "Twitterers", well it will have got a whole lot bigger with our recent stories. And the bigger this audience gets, the more worthwhile their tweets become.
The reason it's got everyone's knickers in a tweet is because it sits against the usual image of stuffy local politicians. But I am struggling to see how we can really criticise a group of councillors who are actually making an effort to create a more accessible face of politics. Surely if they can find a way to engage the "Big Brother" generation and anyone else who wants to be informed, that should only be applauded.
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