Billericay Dickie

Had a love affair with Nina
In the back of my cortina
A seasoned-up hyena
Could not have been more obscener
She took me to the cleaners
And other misdemeanours
But I got right up between her
Rum and her Ribena

Billericay Dickie – Ian Dury and the Blockheads

One of the the hot topics on Twitter at the moment is a particular sorry tale of unethical journalistic behaviour by a lazy-arsed journalist on local rag – the Billericay Gazette, which, unsurprisingly, turns out to be owned by Associated Newspapers.

Billericay assistant head investigated for swearing on Twitter

AN ASSISTANT head teacher at The Billericay School faces an investigation into her use of obscene and sexually graphic language on the web.

Described as an “excellent teacher” and a “leader of innovation”, Charlotte Berry, 42, regularly posted messages on Twitter containing inappropriate language.

A much more apt description of this story is to be found at scruffymutt’s posterous site under the title ‘How To Ruin Someone’s Life For No Good Reason’:

It was a classic stitch-up, what the tabloids call ‘monstering’ someone. They often do it to celebrities, because they think they’re a bit up themselves, or because they’re a ‘public figure’ who might have done something naughty, like take drugs or go swimming without their top on. Basically, because they sell papers.

In Billericay, they do it to teachers.

I know what’s going on here, you think. Like a lot of people, they simply don’t understand Twitter. They think if you tweet something to one of your followers, it is instantly beamed into the minds of everyone in a 500-mile radius, forcing them to read your words, which are usually about what you had for breakfast.

The reporter, his editor and the editorial director of Northcliffe South East are all on Twitter and use it regularly. They knew that Charlotte’s tweets were written to individual followers, and wouldn’t be seen by anyone else unless they were following both (although when they ran them in their paper, they removed the ‘@’ names so they look like general tweets, entirely without context).

They knew the ‘inappropriate language’ was jokey banter, between grown-ups, entirely unconnected to the school. They knew that’s what people do on Twitter, they joke and swear and let their hair down. Like this tweet from 17 August, after a football match: “Best moment from last night, the dear old lady 3 rows behind…’bowyer you dirty c@#*!” (in case you’re not sure what c@#* means, it’s ‘cunt’). That tweet wasn’t by @talktoteens, by the way. It was by @SamSmith68, the journalist on the Billericay Gazette.

They also knew, of course, that by publishing Charlotte’s tweets in their paper, they would be bringing them to the attention of a far wider audience. Some of whom might quite enjoy being shocked and outraged that a teacher – a teacher, in a comprehensive school in England – might know words like ‘slut’ and ‘blow job’.

I’d recommend, of course, that you read scruffymutt’s full commentary on this particular story as it covers most of the essential ground but for one important element which is to be found in the Billericay Gazette’s own hose-job article:

The Gazette became aware of Mrs Berry’s posts when she sent a Tweet to our account commenting on a story we had written about her school.

No, no, no, no, NO!

The newspaper did not become aware of Charlotte Berry’s posts because she sent a tweet to their account. The only thing that the newspaper would have been aware of is the existence of her twitter account; anything they became aware of after that they discovered because their pathetic excuse for a low-rent journalist went on a fishing expedition through her twitter feed.

Yes, Sam Smith is a class act, as demonstrated by the tweet that he sent to Charlotte Berry when the article went to print.

If you want to get on as a journalist when you work for a paper owned by Associated Newspapers then its not enough that you fuck someone over, you have to taunt them about it as well in the hope of getting some kind of reaction to add to your story.

Correction – As Doug has pointed out in comments, this tweet relates to a positive story about the same teacher/school which was published 8 days before the article in which Sam did a hatchet job on the contents of her twitter feed and not the article itself.

My bad for the mistake, but…

…now we also have clear evidence that Sam was aware of her account at least a week before he monstered her which tends to indicate a degree of premeditation far beyond the paper’s attempt to make out that they just casually ran across her account.

What a complete and utter cunt!

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  • DougHug

    The Gazette article ran on 20th October. The “seen yourself…?” tweet was posted on 12th October, and related to a positive story run about the school at the time. Which only makes it sadder for me that Sam Smith took the opportunity a week later to run the second story. I suspect he’ll be using the confusion over the “seen yourself..?” tweet as a smokescreen for his behaviour, but hey, that’s what happens when your tweets get ripped from their context, eh?

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  • jonathanj

    Yes, well, reading that did nothing at all for my blood pressure!