MARC CHASE: Mayor maintains (anti) social media presence

2014-03-06T00:00:00Z MARC CHASE: Mayor maintains (anti) social media presenceMarc Chase marc.chase@nwi.com, (219) 662-5330 nwitimes.com
March 06, 2014 12:00 am  • 

As the mayor of the region's biggest city eyes a run for higher office, he might want to consult a neighboring school district on social media etiquette.

In 2009, Portage's school athletics program adopted a social media policy, prohibiting its athletes from slinging trash talk or inappropriate euphemisms.

With his regular social media diatribes — sometimes resembling chatter in a boys' locker room — Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. could use a copy of the Portage policy, like right now.

McDermott acknowledged he is eyeing a run for the governor's office, an idea he's also entertained in the past.

But if McDermott, who also chairs the Lake County Democratic Party, is serious about making a run beyond his power base, he might want to rethink his social media strategy.

I don't just write this because McDermott made fun of Times Media Company Publisher Chris White's name recently in an effort to paint the company as lacking diversity. Such blunt shots on Twitter and Facebook are nothing new for the mayor, and they've certainly been more raw and inappropriate in the past.

Last May, McDermott displayed a photo on Facebook of region tourism official Speros Batistatos and Indiana Lt. Gov. Sue Ellspermann facing each other during a visit of the lieutenant governor to a local business.

The post opined Ellspermann was "looking at Spero like a schoolgirl in love!!"

It then suggested Batistatos should "take one for the team" and "make da Region proud," perhaps using this supposed affinity to help rebuild the Cline Avenue bridge.

McDermott told me earlier this week he intended humor with that post but understands why some people may have considered it inappropriate. He also acknowledged he would need to tone down his social media commentary if he wants to appeal to more conservative downstate voters.

Good for him for admitting it, though he makes no apologies for speaking his mind in other instances.

Until now, I've avoided giving the locker room-esque chiding any ink. I'm involved in a volunteer partnership with Batistatos' government agency, the South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority, to tell the stories of region Civil War veterans. I didn't want my commentary being construed as favoritism.

But the mayor's anti-social media comments continued beyond the May 2013 Facebook post.

Sometimes folks on the opposing side of McDermott's arguments find their heads superimposed on clown-like bodies on his Facebook page. Granted, these are typically done by someone commenting on the mayor's posts and not the mayor himself.

But the mayor has the ability to remove such material if he chooses. After all, it's his page.

My head might end up in such a post following this column. Perhaps I can use it as my new profile photo.

As McDermott eyes a run for statewide office, he might want to hire a handler specifically for social media, someone to protect him from himself.

Otherwise, the conservative downstate voting base — the one typically holding sway over the fortunes of statewide electoral success — might "unfriend" him in a heartbeat.

Investigative Editor Marc Chase can be reached at (219) 662-5330 or marc.chase@nwi.com. The opinions are the writer's.

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