City council debates the merits of media

Tyler Clarke
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With news media the No. 1 way in which the public learns about what’s going on at city hall, the city’s elected officials want to see it best used to their advantage.


On the table at Monday’s executive committee meeting was a recommendation for city council and administration to take one-day media relations training sessions.

Dealing with media is a lost cause, Coun. Mark Tweidt countered, arguing that the $8,355 price tag for the media relations training sessions would be better spent on their “own media.”

“I don’t know why we would ever go after the media to try -- and this is no disrespect -- to try and get them to tell our messages,” he said.

“I don’t think it’s going to happen. I think news across the world is negative, and that’s what sells -- that’s the way it is.”

During a lengthy debate centred on their interpretation of the merits and pitfalls of news organizations, Mayor Greg Dionne argued for greater control over who is allowed to speak with reporters.  

“Maybe what we should be doing is have a policy on who speaks on our behalf,” he said.

“Sometimes the media goes around us because they know what our answer’s going to be, and sometimes, even seven months after we do something they’re still bringing it up and they’re speaking to third party agencies on why this happened or why that happened.

“It doesn’t matter what we do, it seems that negative sells -- that there’s always got to be a twist or an underlying story instead of just a good news story. So, if that’s our goal I don’t support it because we’re never going to reach that goal.”

Revealing that he’s taken “five media courses,” Mayor Greg Dionne argued that there’s one key method in dealing with media.

“You don’t have to answer their question,” he said, providing a glimpse of what reporters deal with.

I think news across the world is negative, and that’s what sells -- that’s the way it is. Mark Tweidt

An example of this is a recent media inquiry about water levels along the North Saskatchewan River, Dionne said.

By asking for the questions beforehand Dionne said that he was able to phone public works director Colin Innes to get the answers.

“So when I did talk I sounded very intelligent,” he said, reiterating what he underlined as his key point -- “Sometimes you just don’t have to answer the question.”

Ultimately, the city’s elected officials tentatively voted against holding on-site media relations training sessions from June 25-26.

Whatever decision they made on Monday will be tentative until the motion re-emerges at the Monday, May 12, city council meeting.

Geographic location: North Saskatchewan River

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