CITY VIEW – The city examines its navel using your money

Posted June 11, 2013

We have reached the trifecta of navel gazing at public expense as the city administration tries to find out what they are doing wrong, or right in communing with the media.

The first attempt was to measure citizens’ views on the operation of the city. Some 33 per cent of 1,350 responses out of random 9,000 calls said they were unsatisfied with the way the city was being run. To put that in perspective, only 15 per cent responded. The weakness in the 13-question poll is the number who did not respond. What did they think about their city?

Then came the survey of three departments that measured employee job satisfaction. Once again, employees in Public Works and Transit Services expressed low job satisfaction. In public works only 27 per cent seemed satisfied with their job. Likewise in Transit, only 33 per cent expressed job satisfaction.

In a burst of support, the mayor claimed that Public Works employees showed up for work 99.6 per cent of the time in 2012. She’s kidding, right? If she believes that and can convince other Mayors in Ontario, she should be elected to the Mayor’s Hall of Fame. C’est impossible, Madame.

And now, there is a new poll created by the City of Guelph ten-person communications department. This one examines some 25 Media outlets from July 1, 2011 to July 1, 2012. They measured 25 media outlets including blogs, content and letters to the editor to determine if the report or commentary was positive (to the city), balanced or negative.

In an analysis, Mercury Managing editor, Phil Andrews, stated the paper generated 50 per cent of the articles reviewed. As it should, as the paper is published six days a week plus separate special interest issues. The Mercury circulation represents just 16 per cent of the total households in the city. Its coverage numbers are further skewed by the influx of 22,000 undergraduate students every September through to April. Circulation of the paper in this community is very limited.

In his analysis, Mr. Andrews claimed the Mercury reports, as judged by the city’s own communications department, during the 12-month measurement period, 67 per cent were “balanced”. Just 24 per cent were positive and 35 per cent were negative.

In addition, 40 per cent of the negative stories audited were sourced from letters to the editor.

The weakness in this sample of self-serving analysis is that civic staff authored the study. It’s intent was to determine how the city’s administration and message is perceived by the media.

The Mercury is the paper of record in Guelph. It has a responsibility to be neutral in its coverage and produce stories that are balanced and tell both sides of the story. Frequently the so-called balanced stories are invariably rewrites of city press releases. If not classed as balanced then they are judged as positive…and why not?

When was the last time the Mayor held a press conference to allow reporters and commentators to ask questions?

When was the last time the Mercury did an investigative story analyzing the cost benefit of the $52 million waste management project?

Why hasn’t the Mercury produced a story on the excessive property tax increases to residents in the past seven years?

Why won’t the Mercury investigate why the city waste management department refuses to pick up my trash and that of many other residents living in land condominium subdivisions. Yet they still make us pay full taxes.

Why doesn’t the Mercury condemn the arbitrary increase from $170,000 to $500,000 for renovation of the Farmer’s Market? Why is there no comment about the staff failing to call tenders for a major flooring aspect of the renovation? Why wasn’t there more public input in the decision?

Why is there no follow-up of the tragic death of Constable Jennifer Kovach?

Why hasn’t the Mercury delved into the downtown Tricar hi-rise deal as to why that developer was give a ten-year holiday from paying the development fees and other perqs?

If the Mercury purports to be Guelph’s paper of record, then it should start acting like one and report the news that covers both sides of the story.

This is increasingly germane because more and more people are getting their news over the Internet and its social media sites.

By the way, who were the other 24 news media monitored?

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1 Comment

Filed under Between the Lines

One response to “CITY VIEW – The city examines its navel using your money

  1. The Guelph Mercury is really not a “news” paper. It informs you on who got busted smokin a lil weed and whose cat got caught in a tree. It appears to only report matters of civic politics that it is dictated to report by our chosen few in power. Bottom line…The Guelph Mercury has always and will always be a lil town gossip paper that is about as far away from any breaking news as a Dear Abby column.

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