Radio presenter Stephen Nolan would be the first to admit he is not everyone’s cup of tea.
A ratings winner for BBC Radio Ulster, his show attracts huge audiences — but with that success comes his fair share of critics.
Journalists write about and cover aspects of life that politicians and government bodies would sometimes wish we did not.
The BBC is the public service broadcaster, its staff paid with public money and therefore they should expect to be scrutinised.
There is, however, a vast difference from a genuine critique and libel, defamation and harassment.
The internet provides a platform where people can be anonymous and in turn feel that cloak of invisibility allows them to behave in a way that they never would in real life.
For too long it has been a place where people act and speak without consequences.
The person running the Pastor Jimberoo account was clearly a professional man of means.
Once he was outed by Nolan he pleaded for his anonymity — surely a lesson that if you wouldn’t say it if people knew your identity then you shouldn’t say it all?
That he risked all of that just to spend his day posting multiple comments — many abusive, and as he has now accepted, untrue and libellous — defies all logic.
He has now had to apologise and pay a six figure sum to the BBC presenter for the campaign against him — that’s about £1 a tweet. Social media platforms need regulated.
I have my own ‘Pastor’ like accounts, people who stagger around the internet like drunks in a bar, obsessing about every aspect of my work and life.
It is not a part of my job, I am not paid to be abused by obsessive people and neither is Stephen Nolan, regardless of what you think of his presenting style.
As someone who regularly appears on different BBC radio programmes, I often get stopped by members of the public who want a friendly chat about politics and current affairs.
Those who ask me about the Nolan show, the man himself, or a comment I’ve made on air, are almost always people from a similar working-class background.
The taxi men, the retail workers, the hospitality staff, the girl in Superdrug one day who had watched the Nolan TV show the evening before and wanted all the gossip.
That’s why it’s popular and maybe that is what a man who had to pay a six figure sum for his behaviour couldn’t understand.
It is good for any society to feel they have a voice when it comes to how the media cover certain topics.
What is not fine is harassment, libel and defamation of people for no other reason that they hold a job with a profile.
The BBC broadcaster said after the settlement that he would no longer tolerate the “vile abuse” aimed at him as well as other journalists, politicians, public figures and private citizens.
Free speech is important – harassment and libel are not free speech.
One is free the other will cost you, and maybe the tide is finally turning and we can look forward to a time when there is more civility online.
It’s just a pity it took a libel lawyer to hammer that message home.