ADVERTISER editor GLENN EBREY looks at how the resignation of former Croydon Council leader Mike Fisher played out in the media and on social media...
SO Mike Fisher has gone.
In truth, he couldn't survive. As our editorial on Friday said, it wasn't just the acceptance of a pay rise in the current climate that reflected badly on the Tory leader, but also the way he went about it.
Personally speaking, I've never been a great supporter of the idea that someone has to be sacked every time a misdemeanour is committed. Show me a man who hasn't made a mistake and….
And, on that subject, the way some on social media have been pouring over the carcass of Mike Fisher's political career in recent days has been, if not distasteful, at least a bit unsettling and weird. I get euphoric about many things but, I must admit, I've never celebrated a good old resignation. But regardless, Mike Fisher's departure was – in this case – the right outcome.
The interesting sub-text (well to a very small percentage of the Croydon population anyway) has been the way this story has been reported. Some have suggested it was 'Twitter wot won it' – that Mike Fisher would have ridden out the storm had a dozen or so Twitter obsessives not enjoyed an orgy of self-congratulation at their 'wadgate' hashtag (no, me neither).
I've been accused by at least one Tweeter of being 'catty' in my tone, while others have suggested this is some sort of watershed moment – where the worm turned away from the traditional media (i.e: us) and towards citizen journalism.
Hopefully cat-free, I wanted to address these points, free of the restrictive 140-character Twitter limit. Unlike some, I also don't want to spend the whole day clogging up people's Twitter feeds with what is, let's be honest, a pretty niche (nay, dull) debate.
Firstly, it's worth noting the Advertiser broke the story in the first place. Our local government guru Ian Austen has 45-years' experience and a wealth of contacts in and around the town hall. We're not going to reveal his source but, suffice to say, Ian's relationships in the corridors of power helped us report this exclusive. It's wholly possible, had Ian not got the story, that we would still be none the wiser and #Wadgate would make even less sense than it does now.
We also have a website, on which we followed and updated the story throughout the next few days. The idea we're just a print product who have to wait a full week for the next bite of the cherry is, again, false.
But I would happily admit that the pressure and scrutiny the instant medium of Twitter creates did play a part in accelerating this story. Rubbish hashtag aside, it hastened the debate, it hastened the calls for Cllr Fisher to quit and, ultimately, hastened his departure. I'm not keen on the gloating that's followed but yes – I'd agree the Twitterati did play a role in at least the speed of Mike Fisher's exit. Please don't take this as the cue for another love-in...
A final point I've made on Twitter is, to put it simply, who cares? How many people are actually bothered about this? To be clear – people should be bothered, they should care if our elected representatives are acting questionably. But interest and engagement in local politics is at such a low that, frankly, I'm not sure many people in Croydon know who Mike Fisher is, let alone know or want to read about his pay rise.
We, at the Advertiser, do care and I, as an editor, am very strong on the idea we should do our bit to engage people in the political process and make it as relevant as possible to a wider audience. This doesn't mean getting bogged down in playground rows and petty politics, it means – in the case of this story for example – looking at the wider context of Mike Fisher's actions, and how he took this increase while cutting services and laying off lollipop ladies. It doesn't matter which colour rosette he wears - it's irrelevant.
We'll keep breaking these stories and providing as much analysis and context as we can. But we'll leave the politics, posturing, and pontification to Twitter.
And finally, I wanted to address the subject of citizen journalism. From a personal perspective, I don't have any problem with it at all and think it's a generally positive trend. In fact, in many cases, the citizen approach can add more expertise and a different angle to a story than if written by a traditionally 'trained' reporter. My only issue is with those who show little respect for my team and their work and seem to think Twitter and blogging spells the death knell for the Croydon Advertiser.
It doesn't – there is room for us all.
I'll even swallow the odd daft hashtag…