Special Report

Chris Murray Responds to Joint Statement on Media Access at City Hall

Full text of City Manager Chris Murray's formal response to last week's Joint Statement on local media access.

By RTH Staff
Published June 09, 2011

Editor's note: As promised, City Manager Chris Murray's has issued a formal response to last week's Joint Statement on Local Media Access. This is the full text of his response.

Recently, the City of Hamilton received feedback to potential revisions to our Corporate Media Relations Policy. The direct comments were received through the communication of a "Joint Statement on Local Media Access", sponsored by a number of Hamilton's local independent media, citizen journalists, independent bloggers and community organizers (i.e. online media).

This statement highlights several issues, including the:

Not all of the above fits neatly under the umbrella of "Media Relations". Although media relations play a significant role in citizen engagement by helping with the flow of information, it is not the only tool that City staff use to engage the public.

It is recognized that social media tools such as Twitter can be used as both a vehicle to send out information like a standard media release, but also to engage the general public by receiving input and feedback, as well as acting as a customer service tool to respond to, track, and measure concerns and outcomes.

No different than any other mediums, we need to communicate, collect feedback, and respond in a clear and meaningful way via all tools. To do this there needs to be guidelines in place and, most important, we need to manage expectations and relationships.

Recent History

Over the last year we have seen an increase of new media, including digital media, as well as a moderate increase in the number of inquiries City staff receive from such outlets. And, with the ever expanding reach of digital media as well as an interest in our market from mainstream outlets such as the CBC, we expect this trend to continue.

These changes indicate a real need for a review of our current and related policies and protocols.

Currently, the City of Hamilton has a Media Relations Policy that dates back to 2005, but staff have kept current to media trends by creating a Social Media Policy for staff that complements and references the Media Relations Policy.

The development of the current Social Media Policy incorporates best practices from various municipalities. The Social Media Policy acknowledges this medium as both a communications and community engagement tool and provides guidelines for staff's use of these tools as well as the protocols for responding.

This policy notes that a response to an inquiry from a recognized and moderated online outlet is only to be done by an approved media spokesperson. It also recognizes the need to properly manage the resources required to effectively and responsibly respond to and/or manage these tools.

Even though the Social Media Policy has only been in existence for just over a year, it has already been revised by the Strategic Communications Team and is expected to be reviewed by Senior Management Team (SMT) this summer.

The recommendation was to bring this revised policy, along with the current Media Relations Policy, to SMT for their review and to determine if these two policies should be consolidated, and then following this review to bring the revised policy (or policies) back to Council in the fall.

Next Steps

Both the Media Relations and Social Media Policies will be reviewed and revised by staff. The review will include another look at best practices across other municipalities, feedback from staff as well as current media contacts (i.e. our DL - News Media List), local independent media, and other online media.

This policy, along with the Media Relations Policy, will be reviewed by the Senior Management Team (SMT) in the summer, and once approved come to Council in the fall. It will include an implementation plan that will highlight any changes or additions that impact media or our citizens and it will be highlighted and communicated extensively.

As the lead of this process, all comments and feedback can go directly to Debbie Spence, Communications Officer via email at Debbie.Spence@hamilton.ca.


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By OrWhat (anonymous) | Posted June 09, 2011 at 15:30:05

So we are reviewing the policy review with the intent to upgrade our processes to comply with standard practices as to ensure straightforward communications with primary stakeholders who can access information though various means............So are you going to freeze out alternative media or what??!?!?!?

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By drb (registered) - website | Posted June 09, 2011 at 15:38:09

This appears to be a finely honed non-response to the Joint Statement. Chris Murray manages to avoid the crux of the statement: that a political appointee made a public statement that changes a policy of the City of Hamilton. Hopefully he has reined her in and this is the last we hear from Peggy Chapman on policy issues.

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted June 09, 2011 at 15:50:59 in reply to Comment 64771

"...the incumbent must understand the role of the City Manager and the Corporate Management Team. It is not helpful to have the Chief of Staff provide direction to municipal staff at any level of the organization.

In contrast to the political advice provided to the Mayor from advisers in his office, the senior municipal managers must provide apolitical advice to all of the Council."


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By miffed (anonymous) | Posted June 09, 2011 at 15:52:57

This is just jibberish. What's the social media answer?

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By Ezaki Glico (anonymous) | Posted June 09, 2011 at 15:57:34 in reply to Comment 64773


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By Rufus (anonymous) | Posted June 09, 2011 at 16:03:17

I'm not worried that it doesn't say much. Murray isn't really in a position to be shooting his mouth off (thankfully) and what this response tells me is that they're going to do the policy review 'by the book' ie it won't be hijacked by a certain political appointee.

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By downtownista (anonymous) | Posted June 09, 2011 at 16:06:28

"This policy notes that a response to an inquiry from a recognized and moderated online outlet is only to be done by an approved media spokesperson."

I wonder if RTH qualifies as a "recognized and moderated online outlet". Then I wonder what it takes to be recognized as one. That's one of the questions the policy review ought to answer.

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By Brandon (registered) | Posted June 09, 2011 at 16:22:31

I wonder what happens if I, as a private citizen, call and ask a question.

Will I be told that since I don't have a boss they can complain to about what I tell people I get no answers?

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By Gary Santucci (anonymous) | Posted June 09, 2011 at 17:21:33

Legislation governing access to information and freedom of information requests does not differentiate between citizens and the media nor does it make any distinction as to the type of media reporting. we are all licensed to ask questions and receive answers, it's called democracy. The best policy is to answer the question when asked and refuse to answer only when governed by the very few exceptions that are enshrined in the legislation. The government may designate their spokespeople However who asks the questions is already determined by our democracy.

Gary Santucci

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By RonMiller (registered) - website | Posted June 09, 2011 at 18:40:50

"Staff who are approved to participate in social media must have received appropriate training where necessary and authorization from their communications or public affairs representative or departmental designate."

Obviously the city still does not know what Social Media really is. It is freedom, transparency and most of all the brutal truth.

"A breach of this policy by an employee is a serious matter and may result in disciplinary action up to and including termination of employment."

We seriously need to rethink about the people running this city. Social Media is all about being real. Not the threat of losing your job for speaking the truth or your opinion. Big companies use this to find out what people want both employees and costomers, in our case, Hamiltonians.

What is the city hiding?

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By Robert D (anonymous) | Posted June 09, 2011 at 19:50:24

I couldn't help but notice that there seems to be no opportunity for public feedback on the policy from non-media citizens. The plan will be reviewed and revised by staff, and will include feedback from staff and current media contacts including independent and online media...but what about the average citizen? Can't we weigh in on this?

Seems like the only time citizens are involved is after it's been approved by council we'll be "notified" via the implementation plan.

Seems rather typical of the "old Hamilton" not to engage citizens. Here I thought that walkability plan was a step in the right direction towards more public engagement, and here we are going right back to square one.

How about offering to let the public comment on this issue via twitter/e-mail/written comments?

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By MediaWatch (anonymous) | Posted June 10, 2011 at 07:54:44

Chris Murray has learned the art of bafflegab in such a short time. Well done, Mr. Murray. Good luck and Good Night!

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By H+H (registered) - website | Posted June 10, 2011 at 08:47:07

I recognize all of the words, just not in that order.

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By Henrietta (anonymous) | Posted June 10, 2011 at 09:01:56

Word has it around the Hall that Mr. Murray is angling for a job with the Province.

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By Plimpton (anonymous) | Posted June 11, 2011 at 16:27:29

Chris would be a great asset in the province..I'll bet then the mid peninsula highway will get done.

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By Mahesh_P_Butani (registered) - website | Posted June 12, 2011 at 19:13:30

"Even though the Social Media Policy has only been in existence for just over a year, it has already been revised by the Strategic Communications Team and is expected to be reviewed by Senior Management Team this summer."~ Chris Murray

Before a meaningful 'Social Media Policy' is finalized, here are some excellent examples of a few tools in action; and a unique approach to poverty reduction, which should be used as a benchmark for developing a new issues focused and solutions driven 'Social Media Strategy' for Hamilton:

  1. Simplicity NYC -- New York City has launched an ambitious internal “crowdsourcing” project, aimed at getting ideas from city employees to help the giant metropolis function more efficiently. The program, called Simplicity, is being powered by Spigit, which makes a Software-as-a-Service platform that companies and governments can use to crowdsource ideas.

  2. 311 NYC -- 311 is New York City's Web site and phone number for government information and non-emergency services. Whether you're a resident, business owner, or visitor, help is just a click or a call away.

  3. NYC BigApps -- For the second year, the City of New York is improving the way it provides information and transparency to citizens. But delivering great information requires great tools. The NYC BigApps Competition will reward the developers of the most creative, best implemented, and impactful applications for delivering information from the City of New York's NYC.gov Data Mine to interested users. Software developers will compete for $20,000 in cash, wide exposure for their work, and a meeting with the Mayor. Submissions may be any kind of software application, be it for the web, a personal computer, a mobile handheld device, SMS, or any software platform broadly available to the public.

  4. Save NYC Money -- Many of the best ideas for improving City government come from the public. In October 2010, the City launched the Save NYC Money Suggestion Box with the goal of finding innovative ways to save New York City money. Since then, the City has received over 2,400 submissions.

CEO -- The Center for Economic Opportunity identifies and implements innovative and evidence-based poverty-reduction initiatives in New York City. The CEO is supported by a combination of public and private funding and rigorously evaluates which initiatives are successfully reducing poverty and increasing self sufficiency among New Yorkers. The CEO also manages an Innovation Fund that supports anti-poverty initiatives. Other American cities are seeking to replicate the CEO’s success. CEO programs help New Yorkers gain employment, earn GEDs or college degrees, obtain certifications that lead to good jobs, open bank accounts, access healthier food, and get tax credits that increase their household income. These are just some of the numerous accomplishments of CEO programs. CEO develops new anti-poverty initiatives out of the New York City Mayor’s Office. This small innovation unit works with other City agencies to develop new initiatives and measure results. -- (This centre was established in/around the same year as Hamilton's Jobs Prosperity Collaborative/Poverty Roundtable) - read about CEO's impact on Poverty reduction here.

Implementing such tools and approaches in Hamilton, would take us where we all want to go--much faster--without having to sweat the details of unwieldy static policies which invariably ends up micro-managing the do's and don't of information dispersal, in what is essentially a rapidly changing and unpredictable social media landscape.

-Mahesh P. Butani

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By Mogadon Megalodon (anonymous) | Posted June 13, 2011 at 08:36:13

"The tempest has moved beyond the teapot."


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