December 9: I tweeted a link about a department head who was arrested.
I didn’t create the public record, but linked my tweet to this police log in the Salem News that specified his name, address, and reason for arrest.
His name was also in this Danvers Patch log.
December 11: Daily News reporter Dave Rogers asked me to call him. He wanted to know motivations for my tweet and indicated his editors wanted to write an article in the following day’s paper. I responded to his questions.
After I hung up the phone, I wrote a blog post offering an apology if I hurt anyone.
I then tweeted that blog link to Dave, and he replied that the article was shelved. If I wanted Andy Port fired, they would have printed it. But because I had no ill will, it was not going to be published.
December 17: The DN published an article with the headline, “City planner charged in shoplifting case.”
Sister newspaper Salem News also printed the story using a harsher headline, “Newburyport councilor outs city planner’s arrest.”
The first half of the article is taken from police and court reports; and the second half is about my use of online media including quotations I told Dave the prior week.
The irony in this entire timeline is if I wasn’t a city councilor, I would have tweeted the same. I learned the news at a group dinner when some people approached me and asked if I’d known the news. I had not. Google easily gave me the results I sought.
I’m OK being held to a higher standard as a councilor — but if any other resident tweeted the same, would half a newspaper article be about the person who linked to the police log? I don’t think so.
Jack Santos commented on that blog post where I apologized and opined disappointment at our daily newspaper:
They took a legitimate news item (Port’s arrest) and turned it into piece about your use of social media. At best it reflects poor journalism, at worst a total cluelessness about social media and a penchant for payback for being called out on not reporting a significant story.
In the meantime, one resident emailed me that I “have nothing to apologize for” and thanked me for continuing to represent his interests. And, another resident emailed that I should “give it a second thought” before tweets that can “ruin peoples’ lives.”
I’m not a new councilor. I’m in my fifth year in this job and I’m accustomed to criticism. I view it as a sign of health and success, that I’m doing something right. The fact that some people say jeers while others say cheers tells me to keep doing what I do. Already, I’ve turned naysayers into fans. And, they’re telling their friends that I provide value.