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Stop being so defensive, Falvo tells city
Councillor questions how municipality communicates with media

Simon Whitehouse
Northern News Services
Published Friday, June 29, 2012

A Yellowknife city councillor and mayoral candidate criticized the city's communication policy when dealing with the media Monday night, calling it "more restrictive" than what exists in other municipalities.

City councillor Paul Falvo was seeking clarification on how accessible city staff were to questions by members of the media, "particularly the newspaper" and pointed out that city reporters on Facebook and Twitter have largely fallen by the wayside.

"I guess the mayor and senior administrative officer are saying that staff will talk, but they have to be authorized," he said after the meeting.

"I understand that you can't have everybody as a spokesperson saying different things, but at the same time you should be open and not defensive about things. You do get the sense that we don't like a lot of dissent or criticism."

Falvo said it was important to note that as a city councillor, he can't speak on behalf of the city like the senior administrative officer or other staff members could.

"If the city is going to be tight-lipped about stuff, nobody is going to benefit more than elected officials," he said.

Mayor Gord Van Tighem responded by saying, compared to other organizations like the territorial or federal governments, "ours is fairly open." As the primary spokesperson for the city, he said he gets back to media requests usually between 20 and 30 minutes.

He said he also provides his cell phone number to media so they can reach him after hours. Appointments can also be arranged if necessary with city staff, he added. No other city councillor at the meeting took part in the discussion.

Falvo noted social media webpages including the Yellowknife Public Library Facebook page, the Live Right Now Challenge page, and the city's Twitter account are no longer being updated with useful information.

The city has been mulling over the hiring of a director of communications, much like other government agencies do, for several years, but there has been no word yet of when this will take place.

Senior administrative officer Bob Long stressed the importance of the city having "effective communications" during the meeting.

He said the city continues to review its communications plan, but there were some means of communicating, such as through social media, that were not in the city's best interest.

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