Opinion

Hodge: Finally, a good way to judge reader numbers

One of the amazing things about ageing is there are lessons to be learned or insights to be gained every day. Some fit logistically; some simply inspire head scratching.

That sums up the past couple weeks of HodgePodge.

A few weeks back I penned a column about the death of a friend, Craig. During layout of the column the final two lines were accidentally chopped off.

It seems a fair number of readers were interested in knowing what the final couple of words were.

I’ve received more than 30 e-mails, phone calls, Facebook, and face-to-face conversations with Podge readers enquiring about the missing lines to the point where last week we actually printed the edited comments.

I’ve been writing HodgePodge almost non-stop for nearly 40 years (many of those with the Capital News), yet aside from a couple of very controversial commentaries, seldom received so much feedback.

Within the past five decades of writing I and others in the media business have often pondered ways to monitor what sort of readership numbers actually exist—and what or who they read. No matter the formula there has never seemed to be a sound way to answer that question.

It seems we may have accidentally discovered the litmus test. Simply leave off the last line or two and wait for the fall out.

In fact, that discovery has inspired me to....

•••

Speaking of missing lines, I do not pretend to be psychic nor an expert at reading between the lines, however that’s precisely what my brain wants me to do with a letter sent out last week by Kelowna city manager Ron Mattussi.

I genuinely like Mr. Mattussi and during my tenure on council I found him fair and reasonable to work with. However, with three years as an elected Kelowna city council member I gained first-hand inside insight into how things work within the Captain’s quarters of the good ship City Hall. I gained experience in how to decipher real meanings behind some cryptic communications. Ron’s letter sent to residents’ associations, community organizations, and volunteer groups wanting to help shape and improve our community leaves me a tad suspicious.

Within his letter Ron wrote: “Further to the discussions held with your associations over the past year, and in concert with the Strong Neighborhood Project, I have directed staff to work on a separate project specific to creating a collaborative process in which to work with you to update and establish protocol, guiding principles, policy and strategies to create community capacity and resources.

“Most associations were created over two decades ago under the Healthy Cities Initiative and their focus was to ensure that information impacting neighbourhoods (sic) was widely circulated and that communication flowed back and forth between the city and its citizens. The way we communicate within our society has shifted significantly with the evolution of technology and transparency in government. The City has established a multitude of channels and adoption of policies and standards for public involvement practices which enables citizens to be informed and to provide input.

“Now that the City has the means to connect directly with our citizens and receive input in a timely manner, it is time to refocus our efforts towards community building.

“My staff has been researching best practices and other models used in other cities that connect municipalities to community neighbourhood associations (i.e. Portland, London, Ottawa, and Calgary) with a focus on community building.

“We appreciate the time and thought your members have already given to establishing a draft Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) and the principles guiding that document. Through further collaboration with your associations, reviewing the research we are currently conducting, the input by residents that will come out of the Strong Neighborhood initiative and further discussion of the work done to date on the draft MOU, we believe together we can build a framework that builds neighborhood capacity and addresses community needs.”

Seems to me that’s a whole lot of words that suggest city hall wants to eliminate or reduce the true impact and involvement of some organizations by redrafting the rules of the game and the shape of the playing field.

Led by a communications department (with a staff of six or seven which is larger than many Valley media newsrooms) I cannot help but wonder if what is really at hand is bafflegab designed to reduce true input, involvement, and therefore debate on community issues.

It behoves us to observe carefully what this new ‘refocus of community building’ will really mean in the big picture.

•••

Huge praise and thanks to city councillor Robert Hobson who has championed this city for more than 20 years. Robert officially announced last week that he will not seek re-election. While Hobson had stated that fact several months back, the announcement of his retirement party in late July makes it pretty darn official.

Having served on two city councils in two different communities I have had the pleasure of meeting a number of hard working, bright, caring, thoughtful people on or involved with municipal councils. I cannot think of one who has continuously cared and shared his or her time for a city better than Robert.

More on my friend Robert Hobson in another column.

 

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