Ivan Lewis and Twitter: a troubled history

By Richard Jones

Ivan Lewis, Labour MP for Bury South since 1993, has just been torn apart by the wide world of social media over comments he made regarding the malpractice of Journalists. Lewis, 44, made his speech at Labour’s annual Party Conference on the 27th of September.  The culture secretary, inspired by the News of the World scandal, suggested that a journalist register should exist and that if a journalist on such a register were to be found guilty of some form of “gross misconduct” then said journalist would be struck off, much like nurses and doctors.  This would mean that a ‘struck off’ journalist would not be able to work with in the industry anymore, effectively ending their career.

To be fair, it seems that Lewis’ intentions are noble. After what happened at the News of the World this summer, who can blame the concerned MP for wanting journalists to be scrutinised and watched more closely. Well, everyone can blame him, actually.

After he made his speech, the social media corner of the internet boomed. Not only were newspapers publishing article after article defending their institutions, users of popular social networking sites such as Twitter were making their collective voice well and truly heard. After apparently realizing the backlash he would face, Lewis took to the site in defence. “Journalism is a highly respected profession. Why shouldn’t journo’s found to have commissioned or engaged in phone hacking be struck off.” Twitter went wild. One user responded “Fine. As long as MP’s who  take money from lobbyists and fiddle expenses are ‘struck off’ to”. Another retorted “Struck off what, precisely?”

Lewis went on to try to defend himself further: “I said industry should consider whether gross malpractice should lead to  journo being struck off and I oppose state oversight of press.” Again, thousands responded. One response referred to his idea tagging it as “epicfail”. Another Twitter user posted to him “How can you expect licensing of journalists? so many more pressing issues” Twitter had spoken. The general public had heard his view and responded by telling him exactly what they thought of him, and unfortunately for Lewis, it was not exactly lavish praise.

The MP was met with condemnation for his approach. Many raised the issue that, unlike nursing for example, Journalism is an evolving profession. With the emergence of the internet and, more importantly websites like Facebook and Twitter, any journalist is able to post any of his or her thoughts for all to see. Unfortunately for Lewis and his colleagues, no such journalism register is unlikely to exist. Not while Twitter’s still popular anyway.

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