#KirbyDelauter becomes a Twitter punching bag

A tweet about Kirby Delauter by Kevin Bowen Image copyright Kevin Bowen

Kirby Delauter would probably not approve of this blog post.

The Frederick County, Maryland, council member recently threatened his local paper, the News-Post, with a lawsuit if it printed his name without permission. The dispute was the result of what Mr Delauter says was unfair coverage by Bethany Rodgers, one of the paper's reporters.

"Shame on Bethany Rodgers for an unauthorised use of my name and my reference in her article today," he wrote on his Facebook page.

"Bethany, please understand, when you do a hit piece, you need to know who you're dealing with," he continued.

Ms Rodgers responded, in part: "It is not just our right but our responsibility to report on people like you, who occupy positions of trust in our government, and I make no apologies for doing that." At which point, Mr Delauter replied that if her paper used his name again, "you'll be paying for an attorney. Your rights stop where mine start."

Mr Delauter received the paper's answer shortly after midnight on Tuesday, when the News-Post published an editorial titled "Kirby Delauter, Kirby Delauter, Kirby Delauter" on its website.

Over the course of 13 paragraphs, the editors printed the politician's name - and variations on it - dozens of times. And the first letter of every paragraph spelled out "KIRBY DELAUTER".

Image copyright Andrew Langer

"Kirby Delauter's ignorance of what journalism is and does is no joke, and illustrates one disturbing aspect too prevalent in conservatives' beliefs: That the media are all liberal stooges hell-bent on pursuing some fictional left-wing agenda," they write.

Meanwhile, thanks in part to coverage from the national press, including the Washington Post, the Huffington Post and the Chicago Sun-Times, #kirbydelauter became a Twitter trend and a fake Twitter account, @KirbyDelauter, was born.

"Today is the day the Internet put its foot on Kirby Delauter's neck," tweets media critic Jack Shafer.

The Cincinnati Enquirer's Amber Hunt says she "might add #KirbyDelauter to every tweet today, no matter the subject, in Fourth Estate solidarity."

Others took a more pessimistic view. Slate writer Alec MacGillis tweets: "The #KirbyDelauter story's hilarious, but in all seriousness, this is what comes of decline of local press: pols think coverage is optional."

Perhaps Steve Earley summed it up best, however: "If you don't want journalists to use your name, don't tell them they can't."

You can say that again - and so can Kirby Delauter.

Blog by Anthony Zurcher

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