Press Gallery a limit on citizen engagement

Posted on: June 1st, 2011   No Comments

Recent comments on CHML, by the Mayor’s Chief of Staff, Peggy Chapman has Hamilton alternative media in an uproar.

“What I’m trying to bring in is a press gallery. What that means, and it’s going to bother a few people… is I will recognize you and give you as much access to the mayor, as need be, or information that I have – and especially at council, if you have a boss. If you’re a journalist that has a boss that I can complain to, if I think that information is incorrect. If you don’t have that, it’s, you know- how do we control, um, the information? I don’t mean control like I want to control what’s being said, but my first priority is the public. I would hope in media your first priority is the information to the public too. But that’s not my responsibility. My responsibility is information coming from City Hall, to the public. And how do we get that?”

Peggy Chapman on The Bill Kelly Show, CHML, Wednesday, May 25, 2011, as transcribed on Raise the Hammer

You may very well be wondering what stake does Advocacy Hamilton have in this.  Our concern is stakeholder engagement.  A press gallery could potentially hinder the flow of information on topics not usually covered by mainstream media.  To be frank, there is no way a newspaper or television news agency could cover every single issue of concern to every resident of this city nor should they.  The problem with the model of mass media as sole distributor of communications is that it is not inclusive and further marginalizes groups already marginalized.

“To be the best place in Canada to engage citizens.” is one of the four pillars on which our city operates.  Advocacy Hamilton exists to make it easier for citizens to do the same.  By limiting access to officials to ask questions and verify information, can only limit the ability of Advocacy Hamilton to provide you with accurate and relevant  information.

Advocacy Hamilton believes it is in the best interests of elected officials and senior city staff to clarify positions that may be in question before an advocacy campaign begins.  This saves not only the dedicated staff needless responses to countless emails, but you dear advocates from writing in the first place.

The City of Hamilton has taken great strides in transparency utilizing new media.  Broadcasting Council meetings is probably one of it’s greatest achievements to date.  Now is the time to bridge the gap to true engagement which fundamentally requires dialogue.  New media, including social media does this.  Shutting out alternative forms of communication in this day and age severely limits the ability to ask questions and be heard in a timely manner.  Ultimately, to ignore this means there is no citizen engagement.

Raise the Hammer has quoted an email from Chris Murray, City Manager, as saying “We will provide parties an opportunity to comment at an appropriate time before being brought to Council for consideration.”  It is our hope that this will be an engaged discussion in which the needs of all members of the public are of primary importance.

We look forward to keeping you updated on the situation.  We will let you know when the oppourtunity for commenting arises.

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