August 27, 2010 at 3:42 am #109043
Reason No. 4: Shed the smokescreen
Any politician knows newspapers tend to favor one side or the other.
Local papers hit the closest to home. People pick them up—or nowadays click on a website—to see their son or
daughter’s name from a sporting event. Shoppers plunk down $1.50 to get the latest Sunday sales flyers
and catch the headlines on the front page.
No matter how you look at it, journalists will always spell out a story in a certain way. I can tell you from personal experience that
sometimes this isn’t intentional. When I was a newbie government reporter, I
sometimes struggled with budgetary reports or complex policy issues. And yes
(gasp) I made a few goofs. But despite the honest mistakes, local papers do
rely heavily on advertisers, and when someone is shelling out serious cash for
a full-page ad on the back, it tends to control editorial meetings and story
How does bite-sized government help to shed the smokescreen? More and more local governments across the United States are using social
digital networks to connect with citizens. In this, politicos circumvent
traditional media methods. Some of the best ways I’ve seen this done are
through Twitter messaging and YouTube videos.
Think about it … let’s say your municipality is thinking of increasing fees for home builders. There’s a logical reason for this—let’s say
it offsets overloading school systems or emergency personnel. However, the
local home builder association has financial ties with the newspaper, and an
easily digestible story emerges, not favoring the political stance. Guess which
side the public will lean toward, despite the overall good?
Flip that around and shed the smokescreen. Instead of relying on media to convey information, utilize direct communication like
Twitter or Facebook messaging. Then, post a six-minute YouTube video of how new
home building is taxing the system. I can tell you from personal experience
that despite the morning “editorial” news meetings, the finished product of a
news story reflected my taste. Bite-sized methods like YouTube videos can make
a huge difference for a small-town news reporter, particularly if they are
unfamiliar with government lingo.
What do you think about using social digital networks to shed the smokescreen of the media? By no means am I suggesting America doesn’t
need the press, but technology is making it easier for government to be
transparent. Do you think applications like Twitter and Facebook help you
connect with citizens? Do you use YouTube to delve into complex issues?
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