Early next week, City Manager Chris Murray will issue a statement to outline the objectives and timelines of the City's planned media policy review.
In an email to the signatories of this week's joint statement on local media access to City Hall, communications officer Debbie Spence confirmed that Murray "will clarify the objectives of reviewing and updating the current Media Relations Policy and provide some details regarding the timelines and opportunities for input."
Spence, who is the communications officer for the City's Planning and Economic Development Department, will oversee the policy review, gather input from City staff and the community and draft the revised policy.
The current policy, which is dated May 2005, is available online [PDF format]. It states that the purpose of the policy is "to ensure that the City of Hamilton:
- Provides timely and accurate responses to media inquiries
- Makes available the most appropriate spokesperson based on accountability and responsibility
- Conducts media relations in a manner that is objective, understandable, open and transparent within the law
In an interview on the Bill Kelly show on 900 CHML last week, Peggy Chapman, Mayor Bob Bratina's chief of staff, said she wants to establish a press gallery and that she 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."
You can watch the video clip with Chapman's full statement on in a segment of For The Record on Cable 14's YouTube channel:
You can jump right to Chapman's comments at 5:23 into the clip.
Chapman is a political appointee who reports directly to Mayor Bratina. The joint statement, which was endorsed by RTH editor Ryan McGreal and RTH associate editor Adrian Duyzer among several local journalists, bloggers and engaged citizens, expressed the wish that a revised policy should "not allow political staff to unduly influence the free flow of information at City Hall".
Earlier today, Ward 4 Councillor Sam Merulla sent an email to The Hamiltonian in support of open communication:
I treat all inquiries equally and I encourage more citizens to be engaged in the political process. Blogs are more relevant today than ever before and I believe they are here to stay and I welcome them regardless of what some people might be suggesting.
The email was in response to a query from The Hamiltonian about the controversy over the proposed media review.
Also in city communications news: Dalia El-Farra, communications officer for the City Manager's office, resigned this week and just confirmed that today is her last day of employment with the City.
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