Today, the Town of Essex Communications Manager, Alex Denonville, will meet with council, and hopefully senior administration, and address concerns brought forth by councillor Randy Voakes on how to deal with the media. Denonville was thoughtful enough to contact me, and I appreciate it very much, for my thoughts on this process.
The reason that Councilor Voakes brought this up, to my understanding, was a Letter to the Editor that fellow Ward 1 Councilor Steve Bjorkman sent to the Essex Free Press in regards to comments Voakes made, in a story published by the Windsor Star, about the situation with Essex Fire and Rescue Services.
Voakes, as we all know, is an outspoken individual who has even gone to the point of announcing his own press conferences. Main stream media, and by this I mean TV, radio, and print, often contact Voakes because he, unlike other members of council, returns phone calls. Secondly, he doesn’t sugar coat things.
Being an old journalist, this is what we in the media want. Denonville is going to have a challenging task on his hands and I wish him the best.
What’s important to know is that the media climate has changed over the last few years. Now everyone can voice their opinions.
As part of the process tonight, which is being held in a closed session, Denonville will review with council the policy manual prepared by former Communications Manager Laurie Brett and approved by council in April 2014. In the manual, it states that the document should be reviewed every three years, which clearly has not been done.
Also, when it comes to the media, personalities play a big role and we are approaching an election in a few months, so perhaps this could have been put off until then.
Nevertheless, what is most interesting is that the policy manual as written by Brett is for town staff and not for members of council. That is an entirely separate policy and comes under a broader approach called the Code of Conduct for Members of Council.
The first objective reads, “Member of Council for the Town of Essex recognize that they have been entrusted by their constituents to serve the public interest in a professional, responsible, transparent, and accountable manner.”
I realize that council, and this is tough on some guys like Councilor Voakes, are limited to what they can comment on in the media. It’s all laid out in the Municipal Act of 2001.
However, I hope these points are brought up and made clear by Denonville.
- Realize that social media is not main stream media
- Be nice and polite when contacted by the media
- Invite the media to a round-table forum for their input
And the biggie. If you don’t want it reported, don’t say it.