Circumvent the media and communicate with the public? Reason No. 4 for “bite-sized” government

Home Forums Citizen Engagement & Customer Service Circumvent the media and communicate with the public? Reason No. 4 for “bite-sized” government

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    Kenna Walsh
    Participant

    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
    coverage.

    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?

    I’d really like to hear from you! Please check out my website. I’m a Ph.D
    student at Mississippi State University
    with a research focus in government transparency at the state and local level.

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