Like any other powerful tool, social media should be used with care and discretion.
That's why we warn people to be cautious about what they post on Twitter and Facebook, and not to spend every free waking moment with their computer or smartphone rather than doing their work.
Apparently, Pleasant Hill City Clerk Kim Lehmkuhl never got the message.
In her 2012 campaign, she promised to use new technologies to increase government transparency and engage younger and more diverse groups in the political process. It's a laudable goal we should all share.
After her election, Lehmkuhl launched a new Twitter account, @KimPHClerk, on which she has sent more than 1,700 tweets about City Council meetings and whatever other political issues caught her fancy.
Unfortunately, she never produced meeting minutes that are the primary responsibility of her job.
The story, which first appeared last week in our online editorial calling for her resignation and a front-page article by reporter Lisa P. White, quickly jumped to local television. Lehmkuhl immediately played the victim, claiming among her approximately 100 tweets Wednesday that we in old media don't understand the new world or the competing demands of her full-time job at a civil rights advocacy group.
And, in a bizarre email, she said we were attacking her to carry out a political agenda: "It's fairly obvious to anyone paying attention to Pleasant Hill politics over the course of this year that the editorial really isn't about me, it's about trying to gain more mileage out of the 'story' regarding the city's recent mayoral election, and about capitalizing on a vocal minority's misplaced outrage at the council for passing a totally reasonable firearms regulation ordinance. Calling for my resignation seems like picking a cheap target in this context."
Nothing could be further from the truth. For starters, we on the editorial page have remained silent about the firearms ordinance. As for our comments about the City Council's mayoral selection squabbles, they had nothing to do with Lehmkuhl.
But our online call for her resignation, which will be repeated in Monday's print editions, had everything to do with her. This is about the sanctity of public records. Meeting minutes are fundamental to the very transparency Lehmkuhl sought to improve -- transparency we in the media champion.
While minutes might not be as fun and instant as tweets, they are the historical records to which the public, press and officials turn to track and trace events. They are so important that state law requires city clerks produce them.
It's hard to feel sympathy. Lehmkuhl sought the part-time post with full knowledge of the required tasks and compensation -- $7,020 in annual salary last year, plus $706 contributed to retirement benefits and life insurance. It's not a lot. But Lehmkuhl should not have run for local elective office for the money.
She ignored city officials' pleas for over a year that she do her job. Now council members, who let this problem fester far too long, are trying to figure out how to create last year's minutes and what to do going forward. They are also reasonably considering asking voters to convert the elected clerk position into a staff job, like in nearly three-fourths of California cities.
Meanwhile, now that this has become a public issue, Lehmkuhl has submitted very rough draft minutes from seven of the 24 meetings that occurred since she took office. But she has made no commitment when she will complete the rest.
If Lehmkuhl wanted to be a prolific tweeter she could have saved herself, the city and the voters a lot of trouble by simply attending meetings on her own. Many citizen journalists across the country and around the world do just that. They write blogs, record video, post on Facebook and send out tweets from local government meetings.
Some are very thoughtful; some are incoherent ramblings. Either way, the authors can leave the meetings and return to their private lives.
But city clerks have different roles, with obligations to produce critical records in a timely fashion. That's the job Lehmkuhl sought, and, once elected, failed to perform.