There has been, what I consider, a lot of interest developing around GC20.ca . This blog is gaining steam, but I fully understand if some are still hesitant to leave public comments. I respect it, you’ll see by my writing below.
So, last week:
I received my 2nd media request for an interview
The requests was made through this blog. Unsurprisingly, the media wouldn’t find my academic studies more than a level above “boring” (go “New Public Management 2.0″!) and my work duties don’t garner any media-worthy attention. But still it is surprising based on the nascent existence of this blog (would you believe it’s only been 2 months?). Was it because this blog is popular? Hardly. Because it is interesting? Nope, the topic is way too narry. Probably because there’s some meat in this that could feed a story.
It’s not a big big deal really, but still what came with it was a complex of issues that expanded as I asked more and more people for advice;
- Can I?
- About what?
- What are the boundaries of what I can talk about?
- Will I get in trouble?
- But what if I misspeak?
- Will I know if I do?
- How do I make very clear my involvement as a blogger who blogs personally, and not representing the government or my department (which I underline here, if you didn’t know, I am not speaking on behalf of the federal government or my department. Who doesn’t know this? Please raise your hands. Thanks. Please take note: I am not speaking on behalf of the federal government or my department)
So yeah, I got antsy (so many issues!).
Then confident (you know what? I can do this!).
Then antsy again (who am I kidding?).
Then confident (hey, I’m smart, I know what to say…).
Last check: antsy (no, no I don’t).
Yes, governments (and I mean all governments) are antsy about media, and so am I. Government communications, like their media outlet counterparts are sophisticated. I hope Government communications are as sophisticated because we all know media these days are so cut-throat and cutting-edge (think about all the access to news you can get instantly, anywhere, anytime). The relation between the public service and the media was touched on by the top public servant (Privy Council Office Clerk of the Government of Canada, Kevin Lynch) who has acknowledged this cat-and-mouse relation while speaking to the National Managers Professional Development Forum (a community of practice for GC managers):
“We have mired public servants in a complex, and often conflicting, web-of-rules that encourages inaction over taking responsible risks, and discourages innovation in favour of the status quo. This is amplified by a “gotcha” mentality in the press and at times in Parliament, where error free government, not risk management by government, has become the benchmark for success or failure.” (emphasis placed)
Kevin G. Lynch, Government of Canada’s top public servant,
to the 8th National Managers Professional Development Forum,
April 21st, 2008, Vancouver, Canada
This relation isn’t specific to government, and the issue is broader than that – bloggers and the media have a shaky relationship too. Too big of a topic to get in here, but I fully acknowledge that blogs, compared to correspondents and columnists, are chiefly an amateur media platform practiced for free by part-time writers with no accountability link but their self-formed reputation, for now. But they’re also a valuable resource for the public (and hence the media as well), and relations between the two are necessary & inevitable. Bloggers cite media (or maybe shouldn’t) and the media refers to bloggers (or maybe should). It’s a close relationship. </digression>
So here it is, what I think you’ll find interesting: an open note to the media people.
I welcome your reflection – I welcome their comments.
I call this open letter:
“Hello media. This blogger is declining your interview request. For now.”
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Hello media. Thank you for your request for an interview.
But I’m sorry. I can’t grant you your interview.
I can barely handle the blog medium (more on this later), and I (and the few other “public service bloggers”) are still developing this largely uncharted territory.
Some guide us. Others support us. But we sit atop a lonely mountain with a vantage point on lots, but comment and criticise on the land everyone can see from the ground. But we’re only just able to manage our blogging (by trying to know the medium well and treading carefully).
Blogs are a medium with a message that we can control, and solely take responsibility for. Interview me and I cannot control the message.
Although I would like to self-servingly spread my individual message of support of Web 2.0 in the Government of Canada, I accept that the Government of Canada also needs to control its message carefully too, in the interests of the government and communications with the Canadian people.
- As a citizen, I have views.
- As a blogger, I share those views.
- As a public servant, I support the government’s message.
The honus is on me to keep my own view separate from the government’s message. I think I can do that here on this blog, as well as (even more openly) within the government. I just don’t know how I can with the media.
You guys are good at what you do. At reporting, at shaping a message, at staying on top of it, and with informing your audience of the critical issues. It’s your job. But please understand, this is not my job.
I want to give you your interview. I’d love to. I just don’t know how. So right now, I must decline.
But feel free to continue to follow this blog. And please drop me a note if you’d like to cite me. Would be well appreciated. Thank you.
Still feel free to make the request though. I like to read them.
There you have it.
Still it makes me uncomfortable as I don’t want to reinforce what PCO acknowledges as the media’s “gotcha mentality” – I mean I myself acknowledge it, but with it I well is my acceptance that media sets the benchmark for success or failure, and it affects government.
I’m also conscious too that I may be over-exaggerating this too much.
Again it’s really not a big deal.
That is all.
Summary of lessons learned
- To Public servants:
- For government:
- I understand and respect your reasonable weariness with the media;
- About media people and communications people:
- they probably understand the value of Web 2.0 better than the rest of us. They probably understood it better before it existed. Seek their advice. You’ll be happy you did.
Sincere thanks to the many unnamed souls for your guidance and tips on this. You know who you are. Feel free to stand up and leave a comment to take a bow.
- Consider developing a blog on a completely unrelated field where I can demonstrate leadership in writing and insight, speak to my heart’s desire, engage everyone and anyone, and freely advocate for the advancement of the field. Possible topics:
- Rooftop greenspaces
improving the green urban environment;
- High-rise multi-use buildings
(commercial & residential) the solution to urban sprawl, commute and sustainable living;
- Dirigibles (the limos of blimps)!
Time for a resurgence of the massive low-flying air cruise (check @+ 25 mins!). They’re silent, steady, have a lower carbon foot-print than planes, and provide excellent vista sceneries to adore. Time to forget that Hindenburg PR disaster of the past!
- Rooftop greenspaces
- Not be surprised that the media aren’t interested in them.
- Wonder why I’m so interested in the field of environmental urbanism.
Does it even exist?
Let’s form a community on GCPEDIA!
Now on to reading my newspapers, check my trade magazines, listen to the radio & podcasts, and watch my news online. Wow that stuff looks hard to do, day-in and day-out.