Andy Bitter left The Roanoke Times earlier this year. He served as the paper’s beat writer covering Virginia Tech. Bitter took a new job covering the Hokies for The Athletic. In an unprecedented move, The Roanoke Times is taking Bitter to court over control of his Twitter handle.
The reporter had gathered over 27,000 Twitter followers. The paper claims that it had requested Bitter turn over control of the Twitter account so that his replacement could rename it and the paper’s coverage of Virginia Tech could keep the large following.
Kyle Tucker created the Twitter account in 2010. He was Bitter’s predecessor at The Roanoke Times. Bitter assumed control fo the account when he took over the Virginia Tech beat. The Times‘ parent company BH Media says that it has suffered damages as a result of Bitter’s use of the account since moving to The Athletic.
The information he obtained as a result of his intentional, unauthorized access to the Account was valuable to a direct competitor of BH Media. And BH Media has incurred well in excess of $5,000 in damages in its investigation alone, setting aside any loss of readers, subscribers, or potential readers or subscribes and exclusive of attorneys’ fees in preparing this Action.
This is a strange case. It is hard to comment on what implications this may have for reporters, as most of us have never seen a case like this before.