Richard Hyatt

Officials need help with social media

Tragic events of the past few days have dwarfed the headlines about Seth Brown and his shopping trip to Wal-Mart.

For those who have forgotten already, the city’s director of crime prevention posted a goofy picture on Facebook of a strange assortment of purchases and referred to them as the makings of a “Redneck Bomb.”

His post on Facebook caused Tonza Thomas, president of the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, to hold a news conference and ask Mayor Teresa Tomlinson to fire Brown.

The picture on Facebook showed a big bag of baking soda, a big bag of Epsom Salt, two big bottles of Liquid Plumber and a bottle of vinegar — hardly items to make you run for cover.

If Brown hadn’t referred to them as a recipe for what he called a Redneck bomb, most of us wouldn’t have given them a second glance.

Thomas rushed to judgment by calling on the mayor to get rid of the crime prevention director and Brown showed poor judgment by putting the message on Facebook in the first place.

His shopping list was harmless. Some of the items Brown bought were for his daughter, a young lady who is fighting problems a teenager shouldn’t have to endure. I know that because of Facebook, where Brown frequently posts loving items about his daughter and his football-loving son.

But this message was different. When a public official goes on a social media site and makes even a whimsical statement about an issue such as this one, he speaks for more than himself. He should be more careful than Brown was when he fired off that post.

Should the mayor have fired him? No, she acted properly by not putting his job in jeopardy. But as someone who constantly shows up on Facebook, Tomlinson should counsel other officials about what to do and what not to do on social media sites.

Then came the deaths in Dallas and the tragic shootings around the country. We’re reminded what the climate of our world has become. So it would be prudent for our leaders to stay away from social media sites unless they are communicating in an official manner.

We don’t need one of them to turn into a Johnny Manziel.

Richard Hyatt is an independent correspondent. Reach him at