My attention has been drawn, courtesy of Global Post, to a gloriously misleading piece of journalism, written under the byline of the Telegraph's Consumer Affairs Editor, Harry Wallop. Here's the headline...
Government Twitter Tsar to be on £142,000 salary
The Government is to hire a "Twitter Tsar" on an annual salary of £142,000, making the successful candidate one of the best paid civil servants in Whitehall.
Sounds awful, doesn't it? You can hear the rumblings from the Taxpayers' Alliance already. Except, the real story is somewhat different, as the article itself goes on to explain...
The Government made clear that the new job will not only take on far bigger responsibilities, but is also advertised at a lower rate. "Twitter will be a tiny part of the job," said a Cabinet Office insider. “To call this role a Twitter Tsar is like calling Richard Branson a flight steward.”
Crucially, it will take on the both the role of Mr Stott, who has now retired, as well as running Directgov – a website that supplies consumers with information about tax and benefits, as well as providing details of consumers' rights when it comes to dealing with utility companies, landlords or local councils.
Martha Lane-Fox, the entrepreneur and the Government's unpaid digital adviser, was instrumental in setting up this latest post and she took to Twitter to say that calling it a "Twitter Tsar" was "mean" and misleading, pointing out that it was essential the government ran a cheap, simple website to help citizens.
So, not a 'Twitter Tsar' then, but a serious job, ensuring that information about government services is made as accessible as possible. And we know that communications professionals don't come cheap. You may query why that is, but if that's what the market will bear, that's the way it is. It is a lot of money though, so will the lucky applicant have anything else to do?
The new role combines the work of the Chief Executive of Directgov (Jayne Nickalls) and part of the work of the Director for Digital Engagement and Transparency (Andrew Stott), and will bring considerable savings to the taxpayer. The Executive Director will be responsible for over 100 staff and for saving at least £6 million from Directgov’s annual budget.”
So, the new appointee will save costs on salaries (one post instead of two), and be charged with saving forty-two times their salary in running costs. Pardon me for saying this, but that's good, isn't it? Isn't it?
Ironically, Harry Wallop has a Twitter feed, and is pretty prolific, so one really can't claim that he doesn't 'get' Twitter. But if you were only to read the headline, and not delve further into the article, it wouldn't be unreasonable to experience a touch of 'Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells'.
There are plenty of people out there for whom the phrases 'digital outreach' and 'social media' are a bit of a mystery. Publishing headlines like this one merely act to discredit the concept of 'e-government' in their eyes.
Unless, of course, you're a conspiracy theorist who believes that the Daily Telegraph is the plaything of two secretive brothers who want to undermine all of the institutions of our State...