The ODT bellows: “They should be more open.” Their editorial today is a form of tirade directed at the Southern District Health Board (SDHB); with a wrist slap to the University of Otago. The message, however, has sticky parallels.
### ODT Online Fri, 3 Aug 2012
Editorial: Open communication
It is natural organisations want to control news about themselves. They want “good news” to spread and bad news to remain as hidden as possible. No-one wants their dirty linen flapping in the breeze. Thus, public relations firms and communications specialists are paid to develop strategies and to help massage and control information. Of course, it pays to be upfront and open because the consequences of not doing so could well be much worse publicity. Often, public relations advisers will, sensibly, advise openness, recognising the longer-term benefits. But no-one should be fooled into thinking that they are operating for wider altruistic reasons. They are serving their clients or bosses.
We’re in NO DOUBT the ODT editor has chosen their words very carefully, but in so doing perhaps they should pause to reflect on their own production of what constitutes local news in the Southern Region. We use the plural.
And here’s the thing, it’s hard for the ‘average reader’ to work out who is ‘speaking’ in each of the newspaper’s editorials these days, since there’s a discernible movement and variance of principle, voice and direction, or so it appears.
The anonymity of the editor – or the actions and beliefs of the team producing editorial material – erodes believability and reader confidence; in much the same way as when the newspaper’s ownership comes to bear (do we detect?) on the printed editorial stance.
‘Open communication’ is the headline. It’s something we expect from the independent newspaper, owing to the less than edifying antics and misdeeds that riddle city power structures and business, tied to in-your-face indiscriminate spending of public funds for little or no perceptible public gain.
In an effective democracy, and particularly when public money at stake, however, transparency should be fundamental. Not only does this diminish the opportunity for the cancer of corruption, but it also – as noted last week by the Law Commission in its report on the Official Information Act – promotes accountability. -ODT
ODT itself should be in no doubt that if it wants to play ‘dumb blonde’ or ‘dull brunette’ then the community’s quest for transparency, exposure and lack of newspaper bias will simply change gear – we’ll slip quietly to other news sources for the information we seek, some published, some underground. Motivated people get what they need, where they can. The work-arounds: internet and web sources are all-powerful for constant/instant messaging and exchange of visual data. The underground news economy.
The newspaper – while the physical paper appeals to the eye and hand – is ‘maybe’ something we’ll continue to buy, as a habit. For the most part, Southern news (and morality) is coming to us via social networking services, phone calls and person-to-person meetings – it’s fast and unabridged. People are taking charge of their information sharing. It’s exciting, it’s risky, it works for good and bad. It’s addictive.
We know that lumbering institutions have trouble sending the ‘real news’ by official means – there’s a lot to hide, wheelings, dealings, and slights.
Watch the silence of city councillors. Most are scared of communicating with their constituents by media; god forbid that social media should come between them and their council paychecks or, for some at least, the kickbacks and advantages received from private interests to propel decisions through council committee and departmental processes.
It’s a small world and the Otago Daily Times could adopt a neutral independent newspaper stance to capture most of the undercurrents. Does it? No. Especially not, if when things get too close.
Why are letters to the editor not printed? Why are online comments deleted, rewritten or abridged without explanation on certain topics? Frankly, it’s not all about bad grammar or actionable comments.
Most of the time we’re allowed to read ‘what is safe’, things guaranteed to not upset the Applecart of Order established by the Otago Daily Times in conjunction with (we suspect…) Dunedin City Council and the old boy networks. Intelligent networked people watch for what’s NOT being printed by the patriarchy.
The Catholic Bishop of Dunedin has come out as a misogynist… that ODT won’t allow comments at the online post in the interests of widening the debate for female and male subscribers is a sad indictment on the newspaper. Loudly, it shows the inability of All to participate in ‘open communication’ through the newspaper at yet another critical moment for the great ink-blackened unwashed.
28.7.12 Pokie fraud: ODT fails to notice own backyard
Posted by Elizabeth Kerr