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Kelowna officials offering information 'as we see it' on new media corrections webpage

Kelowna City Hall is now taking its message directly to the public when it feels information reported in the media is wrong.

While city spokesman Tom Wilson said the city will still address any concerns it has with the media outlet involved, it has set up a new "For The Record" page on its website to make the corrections itself.

He said the webpage will  "set the record straight by providing factual information directly to (the public)."

And the page already has its first entry, the correction of four facts included in a recent guest column by Soloman Rayek  questioning city spending that was published Jan. 29 in the Daily Courier.

But despite Wilson, the former managing editor of the Daily Courier, saying the City Hall's "first choice" when it comes to corrections is to ask the media outlet involved to make them, both the Rayek and current Daily Courier managing editor Jon Manchester said no request had been made concerning Rayek's most recent column.

"I have had letters from city staff in the past about things I've written in an editorial, or something (reporter/columnist Ron) Seymour has written or letters to the editor, but nothing about this," said Manchester.

Rayek said he had not been contacted by the city either and he stands by what he wrote.

The corrections include the cost of the Bernard Avenue revitalization work, ($14 million not $16 s stated inthe column), the cost of the city park washrooms ($500,000 not $1 million as stated in the column) and the unemployment rate in Kelowna in December (7.2 per cent not 17.3 per cent as stated in the column). Te city's "correction" also said the $5 million cost of the new downtown public pier was paid for by a private company not taxpayers. In his column, Rayek did not say who paid for the pier.

Neither Manchester not Rayek said they knew about the city's new For The Record page before being told about it by the Capital News.

But Rayek added that given that fact this year is an election year, he was not surprised the city has taken this tack.

Wilson said with the number of subscribers to its e-subscribe information service now at nearly 2,000 and growing, and increased use of social media by the city to get its messages out—its number of Twitter followers grew to 8,697 last year, a 47 per cent increase, the number of people who like the city on Facebook jumped 49 per cent last year to 1,233— as well as a seven per cent increase in the number of people going to its website and a whopping 82 per cent increase in the number of people accessing the city's website from mobile devices, the feels it can get corrected information out faster on its own site than simply relying on the media to publish or broadcast corrections.

"We also want to portray information as we see it," said Wilson, adding in the past there has been a lot of incorrect information—mainly of a "minor" type—reported in the local media that the city has not sought corrections for.

Kelowna has modelled its For The Record page on others being used by municipalities elsewhere, particularly Boulder, Colorado, he said.

Wilson said in addition to correcting facts, it is hoped the page will also help mediate ongoing debates about city projects and spending. The city is also considering linking information about city projects to the For The Record page so readers can see if the city feels past information reported about the project was wrong.

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