Why the News Shopper’s Woolwich witch-hunt is all wrong
The News Shopper’s got its knickers in a twist…
SHOULD the man in charge of tourism in Greenwich be telling the world he has to hide his wallet before visiting Woolwich?
News Shopper is calling for the resignation of Neil McCollum after he posted the following message on social media website Twitter: “Guest Appearance in Woolwich today. Wonder if it has changed. Mental note, make sure wallet is not visible.”
The Petts Wood-based newspaper has discovered an old and unflattering tweet by Greenwich Council’s tourism boss. Fair enough, it was a bloody stupid thing to type. But something to resign over? Really? Who in this area hasn’t cracked a joke about Woolwich being a bit of a tip over the past few years?
I’ve seen Neil’s account a few times, and nowhere has he mentioned his employers – there’s been a couple of tongue-in-cheek references to being a tourism supremo or something like that. The first time I saw his account, I didn’t know he was a council employee although I thought the name was familiar. I scoured for proof, couldn’t find it, and left none the wiser.
So while he was stupid to have tweeted this, and it’s a clear case of how not to use social media, all this surely deserves is a firm-telling off. Not a call for resignation from a newspaper which isn’t even based locally.
There’s a reason why the Shopper smells blood – earlier this year, a Labour council candidate in Gravesend, which is even further away from Petts Wood than Woolwich is, resigned after the paper revealed even older tweets containing bad jokes and a thirst for red wine.
But Shopper reporter Nina Massey, who wrote the story, doesn’t seem so keen on SE London either….
There’s serious problems with the way Greenwich Council conducts itself, and its reaction to the riot in Woolwich neatly demonstrates many of them. But someone who works for the council saying something stupid on the internet isn’t one of them.
What really worries me about all this is that an already-secretive council will close ranks even further as a result of this. Communication with the public is already funnelled through a weekly propaganda paper, Labour councillors are discouraged from speaking independently on even the most trivial of matters, although thankfully some disregard this.
But councillors and their staff should be free to speak in public, and talk to the people who pay their allowances and wages. If they use social media to do this, then that’s good. The odd furore over a stupid comment is a small price to pay for greater openness. If anything, it shows the need for some kind of code of social media conduct in people’s contracts. After all, leading councillors can already say stupid things without having to take to Twitter or Facebook.
It would be a tragedy if the Greenwich Council went even further into its shell, just because a newspaper based outside its borders hung, drew and quartered someone for a moment of stupidity. For if that happened, we’d all lose out. Woolwich is still recovering after the worst civil disorder for decades. It’d be far better if the News Shopper called for pride in the place, rather than someone’s head.
1.30pm update: Just spotted something which shows the News Shopper’s knowledge of Woolwich’s tourist hotspots possibly isn’t what it thinks it is.
The story contains a list of “things to see in Woolwich” which neglects its two fine old military academy buildings, but includes the “big screen in Beresford Square”.
That’s only been there since the weekend, and is there to show images of alleged looters. Bleak humour about Woolwich? Never!