Thursday, 28 January 2010

Tweetally ridiculous to criticise

Arguably the most interesting local authority debate for years was started this week by an article on 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.

1 comment:

  1. I already commented over at the websites for the WMN, thisiscornwall and thisisplymouth (which has a good cross section of comments on it) Interesting divide on this argument. We seem to be agreeing - except you write much more elegantly! -

    "Politics suffers from an image crisis with meetings and decisions going on conducted by the old guard style of councilor behind closed doors. This isn't how it happens, but that's how it's seen. This old guard are seen as out of touch with the majority of the people they are representing.

    Enter a new breed of younger of elected representatives more in touch with the people, who are opening up local government by making it accessible, relevant and interesting to a new and younger generation.

    The old dusty ways of doing things worked, but we must move with the times and embrace technology to make it work for us. Done in the right way, this can only be good in a democracy and for democracy.

    To those who are so shocked and angered by the use of Twitter, or any of the new social media for communication purposes, please get off your high horses and learn how to use them - then you would understand it fully, and could argue your case if you still disagreed with it's use in this context. How can you comment if you don't understand how Twitter etc works?

    I'm proud to live in Cornwall, and hope that the use of Twitter continues in this way in local politics. It has opened it up to me, and taken away the old crusty image"