Brighton and Hove City Council is advertising for a social media officer, I discovered today.
My first reaction was to laugh. Then I saw the salary (more than I've ever earned), my news editor hat came on again, and the story of a council paying someone good money to play about on Twitter and Facebook took over. Now, although I will defend the validity of that angle to the hilt, I've had a bit more time to reflect, and I'm more in two minds.
It's way past my bedtime, so some quick thoughts (many prompted by @artistsmakers):
Why do you need a separate press officer to perform this role? As @artistsmakers pointed out, social media is just a tool to talk to people - it's the equivalent of hiring someone to type and send emails.
Perhaps that's disingenuous of me though - the fuller job spec says part of the role is to "evangelise, train and coach staff on the implementation and use of new technologies such as blogging and tweeting". So will normal council staff be allowed to use social media? (I'm told that Facebook etc are currently blocked.)
If council staff are let loose, will they be allowed to respond to tricky questions publicly, e.g. on a Facebook wall, on Twitter, or in the comments of a blog?
If so, will these responses have to be vetted in the way I'm sure B&HCC press responses must be? Surely that would be far too time-consuming? And kind of defeat the point of being open, accessible and accountable in the first place!
But if council staff are allowed to respond freely, then will journalists be allowed to ask questions in these online forums? And if they are, then where does that leave the press office? Could we be seeing a return to the times when journalists were able to talk to the horse's mouth? But now joined by citizen journalists too?
Interesting times . . .