||Volume 24, Number 2, October 2011
Twitter feed fuels nasty news over Terry Fox Run 2011
By Nancy Knickerbocker
September 15: The day began with a call from the CKNW newsroom. “We’re getting word that as part of the job action, teachers won’t participate in the Terry Fox run.”
“Really? Where are you hearing this?”
“It’s all over Twitter,” said the reporter, citing the following tweet from @macleankay:
“BCTF now refusing to raise $ for Terry Fox Run. Still ‘all about the kids,’ of course, just not the ones with cancer.”
Wow, cheap shot! One that was immediately retweeted by @Jeff_Melland and @BCMusings.
“Terry Fox run latest casualty in BC teachers’ dispute” was the headline on CKNW’s website and Twitter feed. Soon Global TV, with its 100,000 nightly viewers, was on the phone wanting to know just what was up with the teachers’ strike and the run.
BCTF President Susan Lambert responded to Global and numerous other media, talking about how teachers have always been the backbone of the run, teaching generations of children about Terry Fox’s heroic life and legacy, and providing countless hours of volunteer time outside of class participating in the annual runs. This summer, she explained, the BCTF had been in contact with the BC and Yukon director for the Terry Fox Foundation, to ensure job action would not impact the 2011 run. The Foundation sent a letter to all the schools that signed up, clarifying that teachers would still be organizing the runs, but it would be up to parents or administrators to collect the cash.
Meanwhile, in damage control mode, @BCTF tweeted and retweeted the real story:
“Rubbish! Fox Found’n & BCTF agreed on full participation by teachers & schools. Admin have to collect the $.”
“Again, NOT true. BC teachers are organising runs in agreement w/ Terry Fox Sun that admin or parents collect $.”
Still, that nasty little tweet was clearly intended to spark a news story that would hurt the BCTF. So where did this come from? It turned out the source was none other than the BC Liberal caucus communications department!
Kay Maclean, the initial tweeter, is a communications officer for the BC Liberal caucus. Jeff Melland and Thomas Marshall (aka BCMusings) both followed up with swift re-tweets, and both are also communications officers for the BC Liberal caucus. Geoff Sharpe, president of the BC Young Liberals, also chimed in with an ungrammatical reminder that folks “definitely need to remember that teachers doesnt equal BCTF. I know many who cannot stand the org[anization].”
Once the source of the story was known, a call from Susan Lambert to Education Minister George Abbott’s office quickly resulted in apologetic tweets from the unethical hacks: “Mea culpa: happy to hear from BCTF indeed helping w/ Terry Fox Run. Sorry for any offence. TF’s legacy transcends political divides,” they said.
Yes, Terry Fox’s legacy does indeed transcend political divides. So why did BC Liberal caucus communicators think it would be acceptable to play politics with the very people who put so much heart into teaching about Terry Fox and who raise over 60% of the funds in BC?
The apology was accepted, but everyone knew the damage had already been done.
Nancy Knickerbocker, BCTF media relations officer