Friday, 15 June 2012

Never Seconds - the blog that got shut down

It's not often I get to use my christinesreallycross label on posts, but I created it just for things like this.

This April, 9 year old Martha Payne of Western Scotland started a blog about her school lunches called Never Seconds, documenting her school lunches and how bad they were. It quickly became popular and led to the dinners becoming markedly better (apparently fruit and salad "had always been available"). The blog got taken up by many people including Jamie Oliver, and started getting attention from around the world with people sending her pictures of their lunches. Eventually, she set up a donation page to raise money for dinners in Africa - she's raised over £2000. So far, so good.

Until yesterday, when the local council banned her from taking her camera into school and shut down her blog. I wonder if they thought that would be the end of it and she would quietly go away?  Well some people just don't understand social media do they? So far the story is trending on twitter, it's been on the BBC this morning on the Today programme, bloggers have taken up the story, and the @argyllandbute twitter account has been inundated with complaints.

Rory Cellan-Jones the BBC technology correspondent has written a wonderfully ironic piece about it and social media here.

When I started writing this, I didn't know whether to put it on my work blog or personal one (it might eventually end up on both), but the reason its here on the work one, is that I think we all have to be very aware of how social media works, and the pitfalls that we can quickly fall into. I wonder how we would have reacted if something we'd done (albeit innocently) had created this sort of firestorm?  It is a fact that the important thing about social media is not making mistakes - everyone does it - but how you deal with them. An apology, a retraction, an explanation are all ways forward. The important thing is to accept you've made a mistake and confront it. I wonder what Argylle and Bute Council are going to do now?

EDIT  So, Argyle and Bute Council have finally responded and issued a press statement here. No apology, no retraction,  no "we're really sorry we got it wrong". No explanation other than they don't like criticism. so, because they don't like criticism, and they obviously don't understand or get social media, they've decided the best way forward is to shut a 9 year old girl up.

Further EDIT: Finally, someone at the council got it, the ban was lifted, and she can carry on. And she made over £85,000 for Martha's meals.


Mapman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mapman said...

[Edited for typos]

It has been fascinating watching this play out live this morning. My daughter and I (she's just a little older) had dropped into VEG's blog a few times, so I was aware of it and surprised by this morning's news.

Aside from the wider issues - photography is banned at many Primary schools, but this does appear to be with the Head's consent - this is a huge PR blunder by A&BC.

Hopefully everyone reading can take something from the way this has been handled. Though it does appear A&BC has previous in cack-handed social media:

Anonymous said...

The current press item (linked from the blog) looks very sensible, is positive about the girl and doesn't translate as 'we don't like criticism'. I assume it's been updated since your comment.
If it has been updated it does fail to acknowledge any previous poor releases.