By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Tweeting from City Hall

Amy Derjue (from Twitter)

Amy Derjue (from Twitter)

Adam Gaffin of Universal Hub has some big-time fun with the Boston Herald’s story on city employees who use Facebook and Twitter during work hours. Gaffin reproduces a photo of the Herald reporters who wrote the story, Jessica Heslam and Dave Wedge, from — yes — Heslam’s Facebook account.

“What are they using them for?” asks Gaffin. “What are they hiding? Ooh, insinuation is fun!”

Kidding aside, you have to admit that there’s an appearance problem with the way some city employees are using social media. Heslam and Wedge focus on Amy Derjue, a former Boston Magazine blogger who was hired earlier this year to serve as City Council president Mike Ross’ $39,000-a-year spokeswoman.

Derjue is something of a young-woman-about-town, and I follow her on both Facebook and Twitter. (If you page through her 340 Facebook friends, you’ll see a wide array of local media and political folks, including Gaffin, me — and Wedge.) Some of her posts make me cringe, and Heslam and Wedge dutifully provide some cringe-worthy examples. But I’ve never heard anyone suggest she wasn’t smart, hard-working and energetic. For what it’s worth, she has complained to me on behalf of her boss, which suggests dedication to her job.

More to the point, most of us — and you can be sure Derjue falls into this category — are never fully off work. If we’re expected to tend to business when we’re off-duty, then we have to be allowed some fun during the formal workday as well. And, as Gaffin writes, “Why, it takes sheer seconds to post something to Facebook or Twitter.”

An aside that may help illustrate my point. Yesterday John Robinson, editor of the News & Record in Greensboro, N.C., tweeted that he was being yelled at by a “legislator who resigned in disgrace.” When I responded at how impressed I was with his multi-tasking, he replied, “Yes, tweeting while yelling. What else am I supposed to do? Listen?” This was not a private conversation — it was seen by all 1,196 of Robinson’s followers and all 2,019 of mine. Welcome to 2009.

Ross tells the Herald that he hired Derjue in part for her social-networking expertise. And, indeed, Ross has a pretty lively Twitter feed and Facebook account. For Derjue to post to her personal sites while working on her boss’ would, as Gaffin says, take “sheer seconds.” You can question her judgment, but her social-media activities are not evidence of dereliction.

Derjue seems to have partly disabled her Facebook account (I could be wrong; Facebook mystifies and annoys me), and she hasn’t posted to Twitter since last night. No doubt she’s licking her wounds at the moment. I’m interested to see how she’ll respond.

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  1. Dan–

    I must say I have quickly tired of our local media singling out non-elected and non-appointed city hall employees.

    I believe Amy is a talented communications person. And you are right that in today’s world, there’s no such thing as private time.

    The fact the Boston Herald focused on the micro-small portions of the day when she decided to post a tweet is petty.

    The media needs to stop picking on relatively junior employees at city hall who work their butts off for their bosses and their constituents. Why would anyone want to work in public service?

  2. Ashley Stempel

    Kudos, Dan. There is definitely a breed of professionals who are never “off the job” and in return their work- and private-lives collide, and if they didn’t, then their personal life would surely suffer. Must have been a slow news day with all of the elections taking place within the next month or so…

  3. Gotcha journalism is alive and well.

    She should stick it out; it’s a bit embarrassing and uncomfortable, to be sure, but so what? It’s going to be gone in the next news cycle.

    Yes, some people are “always” in the public eye so need to be cautious.

    Once it becomes the norm, no one will care.

    Now excuse me. I have to go delete the photo of my in drag at the urinal at Sunday night’s party.

  4. amused

    What does it say about a purported “journalist” who, according to the facebook account that is claimed to be hers, is a big fan of Channel 7 news? I guess sensationalism is sensationalism no matter where you tweet it.

  5. Paul Flannery

    Well said Dan. As you know, I was Amy’s editor at BoMag and she’s one of the few people who can engage in 10 separate things all the time. That’s just how she operates and she works tremendously hard. Low blow by the Herald.

  6. LFNeilson

    More noteworthy than the fact that they were on FB or Twit are their positions and salaries. $93k for communications director for the Mass. Convention Center? $39k for spokeswoman for the president of the city council? I’m sure the city would shut down without them?

  7. Nial Liszt

    Budgets cut to the bone. More draconian cuts expected!

    Is there a Draco corollary to Godwin’s Law?

  8. mike_b1

    LF, where were you when it was revealed Linda Tripp was making just under $100,000 a year as a government secretary — a secretary! — who apparently still had plenty of time to make tape-recordings of hours of conversation with a young co-worker named Monica?

  9. John Robinson

    To be accurate, I was listening to most of the conversation, but as anyone who has talked to politicians knows, they can talk for hours without seeming to take a breath. And he had made his point — that we had been unfair — like, 10 minutes before. I got it. Expressed my disagreement and so the rest of the conversation was me letting him vent for a while.

    (I don’t think he’s among my twitter followers or yours.)

  10. LFNeilson

    mike: Tripp at least was somewhere in the fed gov — does anyone know where? This is the Mass. Convention Comm. and the Boston City Council. That was pork, and this is, well, pork.

  11. Rob

    LF, you don’t think the Council president should have a communications director? Really? He’s one of the most high-profile members of the city government. He’s frequently quoted, interviewed, etc. Most people realize you often need a media professional to coordinate this stuff for you. It’s nothing out of the ordinary and a usual practice. She’s making $39,000 a year, that is hardly a lot of money.

  12. aging cynic

    Rob, not to be contentious, but stop 39 people walking by City Hall. Pay her TWO thousand a year for every person who knows who Mike Ross is and what he does for a living. I’m guessing she would prefer the status quo.

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