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by Gerald Baron: Crisis and emergency communication strategies

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DC tweeter loses Job, but union picks up the Twitter slack
October 18, 2011
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The DC Fire Twitter controversy rages on with some strange twists and turns. You may recall, DC Mayor announced at a press conference that the DC fire Twitter account which had been shut down for almost a month, was going to come back but only with carefully reviewed tweets. Why? First reason given for its shutdown was that the tweeter, longtime PIO Pete Piringer was on vacation. Why the strict vetting? To stop the leaks of sensitive operational details. What was really happening was that DC Police were going to encrypted radio and didn't want Fire to be talking openly about things that they were trying to keep under wraps.

A firestorm of protest came out of this announcement from both media and citizens who had come to rely on the tweets as the fastest and best way to get info about DC fire activities--the account had nearly 10,000 followers. After it became clear how important this was to so many, the mayor quickly announced that the Twitter account would be back without the scrutiny that was announced.

End of story? No. Next we hear that the highly respected and longtime PIO Piringer was being reassigned. Yes, there were the reassuring words that this was an important new assignment. But those in the know certainly understood this as a way of those favoring secrecy to win the day. And so they must have thought they did, until this report from Washington Times that shows that the firefighters union seems determined to pick up the twitter slack.

According to the WT report:

Union President Edward C. Smith acknowledged that the group, which in the recent past had mostly tweeted links to news articles, planned to step up its activity.

“We are going to try to fill Pete’s shoes, though those are some shoes to fill,” he said. “Obviously, it’s a valuable service and we want to continue that.”

So apparently if you want to know what DC Fire is up to, forget about @dcfireems, instead follow @IAFF36.

It will be interesting to see how those in power who so detest instant and transparent information will react now. Fire the union?

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