UK Press Gazette recognises 50 journos as top Tweeters and social media reporters

This week – a bit to my surprise – I found myself given an accolade by Press Gazette as one of the 50 top reporters on social media. Given I use to tweets to promote stories on this blog and on Exaro News I was quite chuffed to say the least.
But I was even more pleased that the winner was Peter Jukes who rightly deserved his award for his marathon tweeting of the hacking trial – now over 300,000 tweets- and his persistence and innovation in raising cash to do this through crowd sourcing.
This seems to me an excellent use of Twitter and social media to provide bite sized reporting from the courts of a controversial trial as it happens. It is even more remarkable given the dangers of contempt and the difficulties of producing fast, accurate copy under pressure. So hats off to him!
As for the rest I was in good company with two top awards going to Channel Four News- Alex Thomson and Faisal Islam, one to Lucy Manning at ITN News and one to the hyperactive Paul Waugh, the editor of Politics Home.
It was good to see the spread of the awards – which covered virtually the entire political team at The Sun, to Paul Lewis of the Guardian as well as a bevy of sports reporters from the Guardian to the Northern Echo and Daily Telegraph. and a very interesting runner-up Alexandra Rucki from the London Evening Standard.
Well done Press Gazette for an interesting innovation – the new media is definitely the way forward.

Tweet Wars: How humourless Jobcentre Plus was humiliated by bolshie bloggers

People queuing outside Jobcentre Plus. Pic courtesy: The Guardian

People queuing outside Jobcentre Plus. Pic courtesy: The Guardian

For the last year an extraordinary war has been going on between the Department of Work and Pensions and  some of Britain’s  tweeters and bloggers.

The battle has been over the centuries old right to free speech, to send up self-seeking bureaucrats and insult and satirize government ministers and the heads of private companies profiting from public services. This example is very modern, the battleground is Twitter rather than over some pamphlet.

 The row began over a year ago when the Department of Work and Pensions used Twitter’s complaint procedure to lodge a trademark complaint against @UKJCP, a satirical  account attacking Jobcentre Plus.

The application came from one Jon Woodcock, calling himself brand and information manager – his actual title is senior public information publishing manager – objecting to the site using the Jobcentre Plus trademark.

 What was extraordinary was his reasoning. I quote from the document :

 “The @UKJCP account has been set up with deliberate and malicious intent to devalue and criticise the work of Jobcentre Plus. In addition, there are a number of rude and potentially libelous tweets aimed at UK government, elected politicians and the heads of large private sector organisations who are committed to working with government on reducing unemployment.”

Not surprisingly Twitter quite rightly rejected such a request.

But the ministry came back – this time I am told using a discreet phone call – specifically objecting to what are called PTs – parody tweets – which were frankly taking the Mickey out of Jobcentre Plus – but where quite clearly linked to information that showed it couldn’t possibly have come from them. Some were true. One was a link to an article showing Jobcentre Plus backed sending claimants to work at strip clubs and for porn film companies – providing they didn’t participate- which I ‘m afraid is correct.

There has been storm of protest from bloggers and tweeters who used Twitter’s appeal process to overturn the decision. The  account was restored on February 8 after ten days.

An official spokesperson from the DWP Press Office told me :

“The changes we’re making to the welfare system to ensure that work pays are important to many people, and we work hard to make sure claimants have access to correct factual information. 

 “We alerted twitter to an account that was falsely sending out tweets claiming to have been published by our official account. It’s for twitter to decide what action is appropriate – we have not asked for any account to be taken down or suspended.”

 An official spokesperson for @UKJCP told me:”I am sure @DWPgovuk has no basis to complain about anyone who does a Parody of a Parody Tweet …Some of what was tweeted by me after 9/1/14 was focused on letting followers know what DWP and Jobcentre rights they have. I take the view that the DWP inspired suspension of @UKJCP was not only to censor Freedom of Expression and criticism of the Government but an attempt to suppress the sharing of rights based information.”

What is interesting is that I have been told that NO minister – not even Iain Duncan Smith – asked for Jobcentre Plus  to close down this Twitter account,. The idea that ministers, MPs, and anyone running a big private business should be immune from rude comments or libelous views seems to have been taken by managers at Jobcentre Plus’s HQ in Sheffield

Sorry DWP there is a very long tradition in this country from John Wilkes and Liberty to Hogarth,Steve Bell and comedians like Mark Thomas, to poke fun and be rude and tear the governing classes apart. David Cameron is regularly portrayed by Steve Bell as a condom ( he doesn’t like it and has complained to no avail to The Guardian).

If Mps and big bosses don’t like it they should take out a writ and sue. But they know that under the coalition the cost of a writ has risen to £1600 and legal fees are phenomenal. And they know claimants aren’t worth suing because they could never recover their money. That’s why they would love the government to resort to censorship, particularly if they haven’t even asked them to do it.

Guido Fawkes/Harry Cole v Tom Watson/Sunny Hundal: The changing blogosphere

Paul Staines – aka Guido Fawkes – poshed up for Leveson inquiry. Pic courtesy: intimes.co.uk

Two and a half years ago when this website was set up  blog hits were at best in hundreds worst in tens.

Now blog hits are best in thousands and worst in hundreds. But last week saw a significant turning point. Not only were they a record number of hits that week -but  more important  it is where they were coming from.

Two of the biggest hits in the past – the post on whether Labour could be go bankrupt because of interest payments to Blair’s donors- and Maude’s Madrassa- the story of Francis Maude’s letting arrangement to Tory special advisers – hit large numbers because they were mentioned on Guido Fawkes (Paul Staines) website. I admit the initial success of this ex Guardian hack’s website was boosted by the  free market Tory right.

 Last week the blog revealing  the leaked memo (first and only in full on  http://www.exaronews.com ) from Nick Chapman, chief executive of NHS Direct, admitting they couldn’t get contracts and the excessive strip searching of Afro-Caribbean women  and abusive and appalling treatment of a gay man at  Gatwick Airport were ignored by Guido.

Tom Watson MP in reflective pose.Pic courtesy: The Guardian

Yet because  the NHS Direct memo taken up on Twitter by Sunny Hundal (of Liberal Conspiracy) and Tom Watson MP ( with 25,000+ and 83,000 followers each) the NHS Direct blog – over 5000 and still rising –   is now the first blog beating the Labour Party crisis blog on 4,345. The Gatwick Airport blog -on 2120 was also boosted by appearing on Political Scrapbook and taken up by the Pink Paper and the international gay community.

To me this tells me two things. The right wing’s  dominance of the blogosphere is at an end- it is now a healthy level playing field between the right and left fighting over the political issues of the day.

 Second it raises an interesting thought. If the growth of the blogosphere  fuelled by Twitter and Facebook continues like this over the next two years – are the Leveson# hearings on media control an irrelevance?

The irony is that new formal controls over the official media be in place on a declining industry  while the  expanding blogosphere will become the place where issues are debated. Tom Watson’s followers are almost the equivalent of the number of Independent readers and Guido Fawkes at 75,000 is not far off. I have a far more modest 3142.

I suspect no politician  – Tory, Labour, UKIP or Liberal Democrat – would dare impose controls over the  blogosphere. To do so would risk a Tahrir Square style rising from both Left and Right.

Barnet blogger row takes website hits to over 75,000:Twitter following tops 2000

Interest in Barnet council’s appalling attempt to criminalise and censor Mr Mustard, a local blogger, took the total number of hits on this website to over 75,000 – they are now over 76,500.

 The blog attracted over 3150 hits last week – making it the second all time most popular blog. The only blog that has been more popular is one exposing how Tony Blair’s millionaire donors are now charging 6.5 per cent on their loans to the Labour Party – which has had 4258 hits. Thanks to local Barnet bloggers,Guido Fawkes, the Guardian, Liberal Conspiracy and the Taxpayers Alliance for highlighting the Barnet blogging scandal.

 The Barnet row even surpassed interest in the ever popular audit of Brian Coleman, Barnet councillor and chair of the London Fire Brigade, whose  greedy expense claims,   £100,000 plus council allowance payments and use of cheap subsidised housing has now attracted 2738 hits.

And  thanks to some 27 kind souls are now regularly subscribing free to the blog – so they can follow every word if they want to.

 Armchair audit is about to be revived – so watch for some new analysis of  the wealth of top people leading the charge to cut pay, jobs and services.  Meanwhile Twitter following has jumped over the 2000 mark – so thanks for that!