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

(Not) tweeting from City Hall

OK, one quick one, then I’m out of here.

The Boston Herald today follows up its social-media story with more from Dave Wedge and Jessica Heslam and a column by Margery Eagan.

In order to bolster her argument that Amy Derjue, spokeswoman for Boston City Council president Mike Ross, is tweeting when she ought to be working, Eagan quotes something Derjue posted on Monday at 10:11 p.m.

I’m not here to defend Derjue, Mac Daniel or David Isberg, who have created something of an appearance problem for their bosses, even though I’ve seen no real evidence that they’ve been slacking off. (In fact, I think Heslam gets at the appearance problem nicely here.)

But quoting something a city employee posted at a time when she was clearly off-duty is out of bounds.

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  1. TomW

    This is why I never read the Herald. Whatever business they’re in, it is definitely not journalism.

  2. Joey

    It’s a bullshit story, and typical easy-hit Herald crap. Professional workers– which these people are– increasingly have no line between private and work life, so tweeting while on the job is to be expected.

    After all, if Mike Ross did something newsworthy after hours and Heslam had to call the spokesman Derjue at 8 p.m.– what, would we be expecting her *not* to answer because it’s after 5? If the media and the public want these people to be available whenever, they should be allowed to live their lives whenever, too.

    I might also point out that they could be posting updates from their phones, not city equipment. Or that they could pre-load updates before work through an online service, which would publish the updates at predetermined times.

    And let’s remember that Boston is an expensive city. $39,000 is not a lot of money.

  3. Hmmm, I don’t know. I mean, normally I would agree that pulling evidence from the actions of an off-duty employee is beyond the pale. But Derjue herself has made her Twitter feed public, which means that I–and Eagan and anyone else–can access any of it, regardless of Derjue’s duty status, at any time. Derjue has crafted a public persona that includes her (slightly questionable) twitter feed. She could have locked her updates but decided not to. She could have, as many of my colleagues do, established two twitter accounts, one for work associates and one for personal missives. But she chose not to.

    If Derjue locked her account or closed off her facebook status, that would be one thing, but she appears to want her engagement with social media to be part of her public persona.


  4. amused

    Since when is a columnist’s take on something worth leading the paper? Isn’t it just an attempt to justify a story that fizzled?

  5. Patricia

    Second the point about $39K not being a lot of money in an expensive metro area. In the 1980s I worked my butt off for some of the future GateHouse weeklies for roughly the same amount of pay (adjusted for the time period according to Web-based inflation calculators). In Fairfax County, Virginia, for a household size of one (assuming she’s single with no dependents), she would be in the low-income category (though not “very low” or “extremely low”; see

  6. Joey

    >she appears to want her engagement with social media to be part of her public persona.

    Martha Stewart, Glenn Beck, Oprah Winfrey, Tim Russert, so many more– melding your public and private persona into one voice of wisdom is the key to success in the media world, especially in our era of permanent employment instability. To use Twitter and Facebook to achieve that is simply to use the latest technology for it.

  7. Keohane

    Isn’t there a mayoral election Tuesday? Didn’t a doctor get knifed and a patient shot to death at MGH? I like enterprise stories as much as anyone, but just because you’re the only paper that has it doesn’t mean it’s the biggest story in town.

  8. Michael Pahre

    @JennaMcWilliams Derjue has, sort-of, separated her personal tweeting from the official. Councilor Michael Ross has his official Twitter feed, of which I bet a certain fraction is actually written and tweeted by Derjue.

    All of Derjue’s own Twitter feed appears to be personal stuff, which is why I never bothered to waste my time following her feed — but, since I cover some of the Boston City Council’s activities on my blog, I do follow Ross’s feed.

    This whole episode is totally idiotic.

    Companies generally allow personal use of the telephones, as long as its not for commercial purposes, politicking, excessive, or interferes with work duties. Most have adopted personal email policies along the same lines. It’s a no-brainer to adopt the same policies for Twitter, Facebook, and the like.

    From what I’ve seen, Derjue’s use wasn’t breaking typical company rules if she had been doing it with her office telephone, since they were brief posts and relatively infrequent (a few per work day).

    The Herald’s Heslam is now writing that posting to Facebook is the first smoke of crack (OK, my metaphor) that sucks a employee in to reading Facebook all day: “I also don’t buy the argument that it takes just a few seconds to write a Facebook posting at work. Anyone on Facebook knows it’s all too easy to get sucked in.”

    Whether or not that is true is beside the point: it is a 100% unsubstantiated allegation against Derjue that should never be uttered by someone who considers herself a journalist.

    What a waste of ink and electrons on the part of the Herald. I hope the Globe totally, completely ignores the topic.

    I also hope Emily Rooney drops the issue — right after she gets herself a second email address for her personal emails.

  9. Treg

    This is absolutely standard practice for Margery Eagan.

  10. O-FISH-L

    On the same day that Governor Patrick is set to announce sweeping cuts and massive layoffs, the defense of Amy Derjue’s malfeasance is breathtaking. If she remains employed, posting about a “cute uterus” and napping on city time, while human service providers are cut, that’s a disgrace.

    The one or two times I stumbled on Derjue’s now defunct BoMag blog, she was regurgitating some anti-Bush or anti-GOP drivel. I imagine it’s her ultra-liberal bona fides that are causing the “there’s nothing to see here” reaction from her fellow libs. At least the normally leftwing Margery Eagan stands apart.

    Why is it that we pine for the revival of the newspaper business to, among other things ferret out government waste, yet when a scrappy newspaper uncovers an obvious case, some vilify the reporters and instead of the real villain? Sad.

  11. Dan Kennedy

    Fish: I think there are real issues the Herald raises (judgment and appearances) and false ones (productivity).

    So let me ask you this, since you single out Margery Eagan for praise: is something Derjue wrote after 10 p.m. really an example of “government waste”? Help us out here.

  12. Rob

    I used to work on the City Council and these staffers works very long hours for minimal pay. They work 9-5 at City Hall, often go home and eat quickly, then head to a community meeting from 7-9. That is a common Monday-Thursday. The staffers have to attend these meetings as part of their job but are not paid accordingly for it. There are often events to attend on the weekends as well. That doesn’t mean they’re beyond reproach or criticism by any means. But I wish there was a little more understanding of how hard most of them work and much less of the hack crap accusations flying around. Ask constituents that have been helped out navigating City Hall whether these staffers work hard. They will tell you a lot more than a Herald columnist or reporter fishing for a story.

  13. O-FISH-L

    Dan, Derjue’s on-duty posts mentioned in Eagan’s column are evidence of government waste. The off-duty material goes to judgement and maturity and whether someone bereft of same is worthy of a government job while another 2000 at the state level are facing the ax today.

    Derjue is a public official and what she foolishly chooses to make public is fair game. Menino’s frequent cries for new and more onerous taxes should be dismissed as long as the likes of Derjue are collecting a city salary and benefits while tweeting away about nonsense.

  14. lkcape

    “But I wish there was a little more understanding of how hard most of them work and much less of the hack crap accusations flying around.”

    The hack crap accusations will likely stop flying when the hack crap stops flying.

  15. mike_b1

    Someone had better do some better digging about the situation at MGH. The Globe’s reporting has been incorrect on certain counts.

  16. mike_b1

    Fish, why on earth would anyone go to work except to do personal tasks on company time?

  17. Nial Liszt

    Just wondering what would follow if an IBM exec’s assistant tweeted “Gawd, these sucky, boring board meetings suck.”

  18. Mike F

    I have to believe that the people upset by this don’t really understand how little time and effort it takes to use twitter or facebook (granted, one could waste plenty of time if they chose to.) Eagan clearly doesn’t get it.

  19. Hey Kennedy, you’re a master at pushing commenters to back up their assertions with real points. Keep it up.

  20. O-FISH-L

    Mr. B1: I agree, but when the company is the government it’s probably best not to tweet about napping at work and Jon and Kate Plus 8.

    Mike F: To paraphrase U.S. Senator Everett Dirksen (R-IL, 1950-1969), “a minute here and a minute there and pretty soon you’re talking real time.”

  21. mike_b1

    Similar statements (complaints?) were made about the Internet itself when companies first began allowing employees unfettered access. This, too, shall pass.

  22. Mike F

    O-FISH-L: Two key words you use: pretty soon. If the time spent on FB and Twitter adds up to a substantial amount of time then I’d agree it should be curbed, but I don’t get the sense that that is the case here. Even then, I don’t think it’s a big deal. I do agree that it’s probably not bright to tweet about napping on the job, whether you mean it jokingly or not.

  23. Local Editor

    I’d just like to point out that most of the people posting here (including me) are posting during working hours.

  24. Treg

    mike_b1 – Care to elaborate?

  25. mike_b1

    Treg, sure. During the 1990s, as companies were getting online, it was common for management to debate whether giving employees Web access was a good thing, or whether it was a time waster. Some studies — likely of dubious merit — suggested Web access cost companies as much as 30% in worker productivity.

    We don’t hear that anymore, do we?

    As I see it, “Facebooking,” “tweeting” and the rest are just the latest diversions. Are they really any worse incessant blog reading? As Local Editor notes, most of the people on this site post during working hours. Presumably, many of the posters are not retired or self-employed.

  26. Treg

    Mike, sorry, I was referring to your post regarding MGH.

  27. mike_b1

    Treg, the Globe’s initial reporting said, “A law enforcement official described a harrowing scene in which patients and staff could hear Desrosiers’ sudden screams from inside a treatment room just after 2 p.m., prompting people to race toward the exits.”

    They were “racing” toward the attacker, not the exits. In fact, there actually were multiple people who were injured trying to intervene.

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