Survey of 20 cities found Vancouver’s communications policies, practices in line with the best

Interested in the other side of Mike Howell’s Courier story on the City of Vancouver’s communications policies and practices? You can find the April report from City Manager Penny Ballem here, including its note that Vancouver seeks to respond to reporters’ queries within an hour, far faster than many cities’ goal of one day.

(Howell includes the link to Ballem’s memo in his online version, but couldn’t, of course, in the print version.)

As a former journalist, who worked for many years in the labour media, I know what it’s like to be ignored by government employees: it was normal.  It was impossible, in my experience, to make cold calls to responsible government officials and interview them on the record about anything remotely controversial.

Where controversy did exist, my call was never returned, especially if I had caused the controversy. Access to a full-time, professional communications staffer was my only hope. That’s what Vancouver delivers.

To compare Vancouver media practices, as Howell does, with Burnaby and Surrey, is a difficult business. Despite its size, Surrey has a single tabloid weekly focussing on its affairs, Burnaby the same. In Vancouver there are at least five dailies, two English and three Chinese, with regular city coverage, not to mention the television and radio networks. The volume and complexity of journalists’ needs don’t compare.

So I stand by my view that Vancouver’s practices are in line with similar-sized organizations elsewhere in the public and private sectors. Do they make reporters happy? No, but when are reporters really happy?