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Chapter 6

Media and Citizen Relations

Working Successfully With The Media As A McBee Official

Traditionally the news media has been the watchdog of the government.  It is important to remember that the media reports the news.  Developing a good relationship with a reporter can have important benefits for the public official.  You will most likely be fairly treated and the constituents will be well informed.  

Releasing Damaging or Sensitive Information

There are times that despite the best management and the best intentions, problems arise.  Many public officials find it difficult to release damaging information.  It is, however, the one sure way to put the facts before the public.  If the information will be released, regardless of the source, the public officials involved should be the ones to release the information first.  This will insure that the news is accurate, even if it is not positive.  Otherwise, the public officials find themselves on the defense.  The defensive posture may suggest that there is a cover-up.

There are times when a public official cannot or should not release information to the news media.  This would be sensitive news that, if released, may compromise confidentiality.  Officials should be familiar with state public information laws and know what constitutes public information.  You are never to misrepresent the facts, this is both unethical and illegal.  An honest explanation about why a sensitive issue cannot be discussed will help build credibility.

Consulting with the Town's attorney to plan a strategy that will get as much information as possible to the news media and public is the correct way to handle sensitive information.

Correcting Inaccurate Reports

On occasion information may be published that is inaccurate.  An official should correct an inaccurate or distorted story as quickly as possible.  The reporter can make the necessary changes for a later edition or broadcast.  

Releasing News to the Public

For the regular release of news, public officials are to use the Town Administrator as the source to release the information.  This avoids confusion and misinformation caused when mutliple versions of the facts are released.