I have sent the following email to Vicky Smy, senior communications officer at Mid Suffolk District Council.
Dear Ms Smy,
I was very pleased to read in Mark Valladares blog that you are considering with colleagues at Babergh council a social media policy. You will, no doubt, be taking into account the views of Eric Pickles, the Communities Secretary, who sent out a press release earlier this year saying:
Councils should open up their public meetings to local news ‘bloggers’ and routinely allow online filming of public discussions as part of increasing their transparency, Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles said today.
To ensure all parts of the modern-day media are able to scrutinise Local Government, Mr Pickles believes councils should also open up public meetings to the ‘citizen journalist’ as well as the mainstream media, especially as important budget decisions are being made.
I doubt if either Mid Suffolk or Babergh councils are likely to be inundated with “citizen journalists” — I don’t really like that term which sounds too much like something from the French Revolution — clutching camcorders. But blogging and the use of social media in general do provide an important means of both informing and engaging the public. There is a danger in doing things because they are fashionable and seem to say “we understand social media”, but ending up looking foolish. The county council started a Twitter feed, promoted on the front page of its website, but they have made only three tweets in the past six months!
Making the same information and facilities available to social media as you do to mainstream media is perhaps the most important step. I am glad to see that you will be providing Mark with press releases. Please add me to the list too.
I am a fairly experienced blogger (former journalist, journalism teacher and communications consultant) who previously blogged about media but have now turned my attention to local government in Suffolk. If you would like to talk about any of this, please contact me.