Public officials probably spend too much time thinking about how to get the media on their side.
They want to know how to get the media to report what they consider “positive” news.
They want to figure out how to get the media to write in a way that will exactly convey to the public what they want them to know and how they want them to think regarding the actions of local government.
If they feel like they are under fire, they want to learn how to get the media off their backs.
So, they try a lot of things.
They hire or appoint public information officers to write news releases that are worded in a kind of cloaked government-speak that makes it seem as if everything local government does is always a bed of roses.
They lash out at the media in public meetings, somehow thinking that is going to get a reporter or editor on their side (odd reasoning).
They just don’t discuss anything in open public meetings that they think will be reported in a way that might cast them in a bad light.
They play favorites with the members of the media they consider to be most favorable.
They stonewall or snub reporters who write something they don’t particularly like.
They try and demand meetings with editors in an attempt to control what the newspaper reports or what is written in editorials.
So, we want to help.
We want to give public officials advice.
We want to clearly explain what works and what doesn’t work.
We want to actually give them some inside information.
Frankly, none of the things mentioned so far works.
There is, however, one piece of little-known information that will go a long way toward helping public officials in their quest to, in their minds, “get the media on their side.”
The secret, the key, the answer, the solution is simple — do right by citizens.
Any newspaper worth its salt is a public watchdog.
Taming the dog is not complicated.
There are simple things elected officials can do.
Be loyal to the public trust.
Be a guardian of the public purse.
Be accessible to the public.
Show respect to the public.
Listen to the public.
Do the public’s business, out in the open, in the public.
Then, the media would surely be “on your side.”
— Editor Jim Zachary