By Joey Coleman
Published November 01, 2011
As the City of Hamilton finalizes its new media policy, Hamilton Mayor Bob Bratina revealed that he plans to include ideas in the policy given to him by Toronto Mayor Rob Ford. Mayor Ford is presently boycotting The Toronto Star and does not speak to many of Toronto's media outlets that he disagrees with.
Mayor Bratina's comments came last Tuesday on Hamilton radio station AM 900 CHML. He spoke on-air before his State of the City Address:
He [Mayor Ford] explained what his attitude toward was the media [sic], and that will probably be part of our communications strategy when we come out with that later on this year.
The City's media policy is under review at the request of Peggy Chapman, the Mayor's chief of staff, who stated on the Bill Kelly Show on May 25, 2011 that she desires to remove independent media from City Hall.
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?
Ms. Chapman's statements led a number of Hamilton's local independent media outlets to issue a joint declaration calling for press freedoms at City Hall.
The joint statement by local community media was signed by The Hamiltonian publisher Teresa DiFalco, RTH associate editor Adrian Duyzer, Urbanicity editor and publisher Martinus Geleynse, blogger Matt Jelly, H Magazine publisher Dave Kuruc, RTH editor Ryan McGreal, CFMU 93.3 program director James Tennant, community organizer Matt Thompson and myself.
The Hamilton Spectator published the full statement on their website and expressed their own concerns about the proposal.
The City Manager Chris Murray took control of the issue after the joint statement, stating that city staff would be reviewing the policy and independent media would be consulted during the process.
That consultation has yet to occur.
Mayor Bratina's embrace of the Mayor Ford school of media relations directly contradicts Mayor Bratina's statement during the media policy discussion following the joint statement.
In a June 10, 2011 email, Mayor Bratina wrote:
One of my priorities as Mayor has been to bring more information to the public, not less. I was asked the day after the election what my first priority was, and answered "live streaming of all committee and Council meetings". That was accomplished within two months of my taking office.
This is important because media often picks and chooses what stories to cover and what angle to take. The closer the public can get to the daily business of their Council, whether by streaming, requests for information, broader and more thorough coverage through media, including blogs, etc., the better.
The offices of Mayor and City Manager were the first to publicly support the concept of "Open Data". We are now reviewing all matters related to communications and public information. The public will have an opportunity to give input, and final decisions will be in the hands of Council."
At present, the policy review is awaiting the hiring of a new communications manager in the City Manager's Office. The new communications manager will have the final say on the policy before it is presented to City Council.
This was first published on Joey's blog.
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