When I covered politics, a sage old hand once told me: “If you get to the point where Labour say you favour the Tories, the Tories claim you do too much for the Lib Dems and the Lib Dems claim you like Labour the most, then you’ve pretty much got the job nailed.”
So how does that work online? Liverpool Daily Post and Echo City Editor David Bartlett found out this week, when Liverpool Direct (LDL) – the £78million a year quasi-company set up by the council “to improve customer service” in 2001 – got its revenge on Bartlett after a series of articles which didn’t exactly shine a positive light on this organisation.
Things like the fact the city council had yet to receive a penny in profit for the work it had done, questions over the fact that the IT services it provided the council weren’t up to scratch, and, oh yes, the small matter of the council IT contract with LDL not actually covering the replacement of computers.
Anyway, LDL appear to have had enough of David’s stories. They aren’t taking legal action, they aren’t even suggesting the stories are wrong.
They’ve blocked access to his blog from computers within Liverpool Direct. Not for the probing stories he’s written about whether LDL is providing services which are value for money to the council (there are plenty of councillors who will say no), but this blog post – all about Liverpool Direct handing out mousemats to staff which read: “Liverpool Direct is a great place to work.” For good measure, to make sure people didn’t miss the mousemats and little furry things which came with them, Liverpool Direct sent all staff an email saying “Did you think Santa had come a little earlier this year?”
Now, putting aside the usual surprise that senior managers are so thin-skinned about such blog posts, surely there’s a bigger point a play here: What do LDL think the result of this ban is going to be?
The only thing that will happen, surely, is that people who hadn’t looked at David’s blog from within LDL will now log on, at home or – if they’re real rebels – via their mobile phones while in the office to see what the fuss is all about.
It’s a bit like teenagers and beer – they get into it at first because they’re supposed to be banned from having it. You’d have thought people involved with IT, and therefore use of the internet, would be aware of that, wouldn’t you?
(In the interests of transparency, I should point out I’ve known David for several years, have worked with him at two different newspapers and am head of multimedia for Trinity Mirror Regionals, which includes the Liverpool Daily Post and Liverpool Echo among its titles)