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On shooting the messenger

Last weekend I undertook one of the many ‘rank yourself on social media’ surveys. Apparently I was a ‘pioneer’ at the time. (Although I have since, for no apparent reason, become an ‘ace’) At the time I wasn’t particularly impressed with it it. However, when a journalist this morning described Twitter as the ‘wild west online’ of unregulated reporting, it took on a rather different feel. The same reporter also described Twitter as an ‘amoral disruptive force‘. To me this seemed a little strong.

There is a lot of talk just now about Twitter leaking stories to the world at large and the print media, not surprisingly, are nervous about it. However, shouldn’t we remember that the heart of this story is not actually about Twitter or newspapers, but about privacy and gagging? The fact that we have found out about draconian gagging orders through Twitter should make us question the orders themselves rather than the means through which we heard about them, surely?  If a newspaper breaks a story of corruption in high places we should be more troubled about that corruption than we should about the right of a newspaper to report such a thing.

I can remember when radio programmes used to make a point about when a listener had written in ‘by email’ because it made the programme itself sound cutting edge. Now they no longer mention emails, but they do mention tweets. That will settle down, I’m sure. We may even reach the point where handwritten letters are such a novelty that they get a special mention.

In the meantime, though – lay off the little blue bird. He’s only doing his job…


The lure of multiple identities

I was talking yesterday about the relationship between our online and offline selves, and the danger of the one overriding the other. When our offline self becomes dominated, or driven by our online activities, we need to pause and reflect. Not only that, but the Christian faith calls for integrity in all things, so that we are the same person wherever our voice is heard or our words are read.

It has recently come to light that the Press Complaints Commission is to start regulating Twitter feeds from newspapers. Those of us who treat Twitter as a serious medium should be pleased by this. However, the problem comes with the greyer area of journalists’ own Twitter feeds. At what point does a journalist’s own Twitter feed cease to speak for their newspaper?  Of course the simple solution is to have multiple Twitter accounts, with a clear and labelled distinction between professional and private accounts.  This is easy to do, but is it wise?

Since all my online material is accessible to anybody, there are certain things I should not write as a  Church Minister. The simple solution is to create an account under another name and carry on regardless. However, in truth the things I should not write as a Christian minister I probably should not write as a Christian – so I prefer to stick to my own identity and judge my content accordingly.

If we encourage journalists (or ministers for that matter) to fragment their identity in order to protect themselves, don’t we chip away at the very qualities which make them good at their jobs?

Serendipitous juxtaposition

Just preparing this morning to embark on a new preaching series on the book of Ecclesiastes, and thought I would start with its best known passage on ‘a time for everything’ (Ecclesiastes 3). In the course of preparing the worship, I started researching “Books of Hours” and their importance in personal devotional life, from the Middle Ages onwards.  These gorgeously illustrated devotional books were once the preserve of the very wealthiest people. However, with the advance of printing techniques, even the servants of a wealthy household could own their own Book of Hours by the Fifteenth Century.

The books contained various things from Psalms and antiphons to prayers and devotions. It is principally for their illustrations, rather than their words, which we remember them now, though. At times, as seen in the example below, the words all but disappear under the wealth of ilustration:

Image: danielmitsui

At the same time as looking into all this, I have a newspaper article on my desk about the work of gifted cartoonists  Nick Hilditch and Chris Bell. On their website,, they have set themselves the task of illustrating random tweets on the day that they are tweeted.  Thus the ephemeral words of Twitter (or at least the ones which catch the cartoonists’ eyes) are turned into an artwork which outlasts the tweet illustrated:


As preachers we inevitably have a word, rather than an image bias. We are wordsmiths, after all. However, when I look at these pictures from the 15th and 21st Centuries, it makes me wonder what pictures my words are painting.

Preacher beware!

Richard Littledale

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