Chronicle Herald oddly unaware of how to build a social media presence

By: William Coney

As I write this, the strike between the Halifax Typographical Union and the Chronicle Herald has entered its second day. At 3:38pm on the 23rd, the Chronicle Herald Twitter account put out this tweet:

Let’s “#thinkaboutit”*.

As a contributor to the Dalhousie Gazette and in my own personal capacity, I tweet a lot. I tweet out what’s happening over the long and tedious Dalhousie Student Union and Dalhousie Senate Meetings, often acting as one of the only voices who’s sharing the spirited discussion which is happening.

For some of these, like the Dalhousie Board of Governors, I’m one of the only unfettered voices. While we’ve had many different student representatives serving with them, they’re bound up by the relationship they need to maintain with the Administration and the BoG as a whole.

I wouldn’t pretend that I am the most well trained at reporting — unlike many of my peers in the Gazette, I’ve never formally taken any classes associated with the journalism school, and my written style often is just like my spoken — too verbose, too much in the vernacular, perhaps a bit too distinct from the “neutral” tone demanded of reporting in this most modern era. But I would say that I know a thing or two about Twitter.

With Twitter, unlike other manners of communicating or sharing news, one needs to be engaged and sharing, even with individuals challenging your beliefs or the specific information you’re reporting. During this all, you must also be respectful, or at least tersely courteous, as sometimes some of the most inane things are said.

How does this manifest? Let’s take a look at one example from nearly two years ago:

While this example could be cast as atypical because it is so civil and more formal than others similar exchanges, it still works — it has an former executive of the DSU responding to a query which a faculty member brought up regarding how the DSU operates — all brought up off of a tweet which wasn’t detailed enough in the first place. All a form of community building and engagement which would be either impossible in how traditional news media operates or would’ve been a long and drawn out over several letters to the editor.

Let’s get back to the Chronicle Herald, to “#thinkaboutit.” As the strike began, the entire web editorial team of the Herald was replaced with workers out of Toronto, apparently. And this means that as a result, any of the lively debate, any of the secondary questioning or heckling of what has been stated at city council, in Province House, or at any town meeting simply won’t have any official voices of the Herald. This weakens it as a paper, and it is content which will be in many ways non replaceable, simply lost for however as long as the strike extends for.

What’s perhaps the worst of this is how the administration of the Chronicle Herald does not seem to get this. As the Coast pointed out late in the evening of the 23rd, Mark Lever (and the Chronicle Herald) are getting “snippy” on the Twitterverse (see http://www.thecoast.ca/RealityBites/archives/2016/01/23/the-chronicle-herald-is-getting-snippy-on-twitter).

The @CH_MLever account, by which all means seems to be genuinely from Lever himself, has put out tweets which varyingly attacked others from the Haligonian Twitter commentariat about the opinions and thoughts that they’ve shared on the strike. I’m all for debate, arguing, etc — as is our Opinions Editor John Hillman, and most all the other contributors for this Opinions section. But Lever, unlike many of the others discussing and engaging, makes big declarative statements, and asserts fact without, most basically speaking, playing nice and trying to be courteous to others as they explain there positions.

It is little surprise as such that Lever tweeted this:

Twitter is, and has been a personal space. It’s just like any other social media network in that regard. One just needs to know and understand that.

One needs to “#thinkaboutit.”

* For those interested, the #thinkaboutit before the Chronicle Herald’s tweet seems to have been mostly used for a variety of self-help philosophy, statements regarding the #BlackLivesMatter movement, and non sequitur internet memes. After the Chronicle Herald’s tweet, a 4th distinct category of Haligonians making fun of the Chronicle Herald’s use of the hashtag seems to have emerged.

William Coney (@WilliamConey) often live tweets Dalhousie Student Union and various Dalhousie governing meetings, and is a regular contributor about their functions.