A (not totally serious) Note about Notice

There’s a Community Engagement Task Force currently underway (first meeting was last Saturday) in London. I missed the sign-up and I’m pretty sure it’s too late to join now. I blame no one but myself but I believe I have a reasonable defense (which does involve blaming someone else!)

For one, I’m not a big fan of the London Free Press. I’m sorry. I’ve tried. I grew up in London and while during my 35+ (lol) years on this planet I’ve been lucky enough to have my picture in the Freeps 3 or 4 times (once as a child drooling at the sight of a Gingerbread House and twice as a High School Basketballer at Westminster – photos and numerous mentions) I’ve also been loathe to read most of it for most of those years. It’s only gotten worse since I left and returned to London now that it’s owned by Sun Newspapers instead of the local Blackburn clan that owned it for so long. A one-paper town is not good for democracy at the best of times, let alone when that paper is owned by the Sun. Like our local Television station, I’d venture a guess that the content is 80% non-local and about places other than London, while local coverage never gets very deep (in my opinion, this is a problem with all current ‘news’ and journalism where advertising largely drives content.) I’d rather get more local news less often than get a poor copy of other newspapers. (and I’m sure some of my readers are Freepers and please don’t take offense, it’s not you individually, it’s the whole thing in sum.)

The other primary source of local information is Social Media channels like Twitter and Facebook. Unfortunately if you follow or like a lot of people/organizations, news can get lost in the feeds, particularly if you aren’t in front of your computer for a few days.

So I saw the posting for this Task Force about 4 months ago and really couldn’t commit to joining it at that time. I then went about my business and simply forgot to go back and enroll. So I do take some of the blame.

I’m also not about to suggest the problem is entirely with the media, or my dislike of it. The City of London doesn’t do much communicating. One might hope a Ward Councillor would keep interested citizens updated but that Councillor would have to engage citizens for that to happen and I know my Councillor is a busy bean counter (but I already wrote about this.) This is where City newsletters, websites (local ones) and RSS feeds, or perhaps a City e-mail distribution list would serve people well. There is nothing about the City of London that is ever-present – other than the roads. We live in a City where local homeowners are apparently responsible for their own street lights, sidewalks and sewers (http://www.lfpress.com/news/london/2011/05/17/18156336.html) – how can City Hall be expected to provide information to citizens?

One begins to wonder what the high Property Taxes do pay for in London. I hate to be one of THOSE residents but seriously. So my suggestion for Community Engagement is to … use communications to engage citizens. And, buy some space in the Globe and Mail for ads, so that those of us who enjoy reading a decent national newspaper can be spared the cost of the Free Press. Think of the trees we’ll save too! Also, invest in technology that allows for shared files and pdfs of original City documents rather than the scanned copies of City reports that residents are currently able to download. And okay, I can do a better job of being involved earlier on though it’s always nice to be specifically invited once you’ve made it fairly clear that you’re interested. I know homeowners in Toronto (I know, there he goes again, why don’t you just go back there – because, I love the parks here too!) who are on the Planning Division’s Notice list and get regular mailings about meetings, discussions, variance applications in their neighbourhood, etc. So I’ll try to do a better job at doing my job, though I also believe I speak for many people who are unemployed, live on the outskirts or in a brown belt and find getting information/involved difficult.


4 Responses to “A (not totally serious) Note about Notice”

  1. May 18, 2011 at 6:06 pm

    I was going to write a blog piece myself, but now I don’t have to. I so agree that London should be in better communication. The problem I see is if they were, then the people would actually know what’s going on. I don’t think this plays into the hands of politicians. Whenever I speak of running a campaign based on total disclosure and the truth good or bad, I am told I’d fail miserably. Common thought is people do not want to know the truth. It confuses them. They prefer the spin. I might even agree, in part. Some people are like that, but looking at the number of local blogs, I also see that many are not.

    That leads me to newspapers. All are so partisan anymore one cannot put faith in what one reads. More spin. You know where I get my most valuable information? From the comments on newspaper articles and blogs. The London Free Press is very tight with their comment sections. Often one has to be moderated, often the comments are closed within hours, if offered at all. That is what got me blogging in the 1st place. I say, if you want to be fully informed and have a sundry of opinions to utilize, read the comments.

    This leads me to London’s many, many local bloggers. We have a lot. I wonder why that is? Is it because of poor communication from City Hall? Is it because of partisan mainstream media? Whatever the reasons, it boils down to many Londoners care enough to blog their views and put them out there for everyone to see, fearless of negativity and criticism. I read more blogs posts daily than I do newspaper articles. Often what I read is no holds barred for better or worse, and I like it that way.

    This leads me away from newspapers and to blogs specifically. Like I said, I get more out of comments than I do from blogs themselves (on the most part). Comments are generally writing without a lot of thought. They are generally from the gut reactions to what was written. Gut reactions are more telling, in my opinion. Comments. In most of the local blogs I read there are few comments. Certainly much less than one would see in an online newspaper. Is it because more people read the online newspaper articles? Or because people feel they are talking to more of an “authority”? I think the latter only because my own blog gets hundreds of “hits”, but few comments. Then again maybe “real” online newspapers get thousands of hits to garner their comments.

    I suggest to all the blogger readers, and even online newspaper readers, if you have the opportunity to comment, do so. Even if it is just a “Thanks for this”. Your local blogger will appreciate it, and just maybe that one comment is all it takes for them to continue on.

    And that is in part of how this City(dweller)thinks.

    Thanks for blogging, and thanks for this opportunity to share my views.

  2. May 18, 2011 at 7:12 pm

    Thanks. You’re welcome. Not sure i agree about partisanship. My beef is that generally, we have cheapened and made a commodity of news. To paraphrase Neil Postman, we’re Amusing Ourselves to Death. Rarely are issues explored at any great length, even in the Globe and Mail, which I read cover-to-cover on weekends along with a bit of the Toronto Star and a couple of pages in the Freeps, depending on when I’m home on the weekend. I do look at the Freeps’ website and share quite a few stories on my FB page and Twitter, sometimes with comment (well, who am I kidding, usually with comment!) I try to stay away from the Comments though as I find them mostly deplorable.

    At any rate, blogs are a powerful tool no doubt but they also come with reservations – I rarely cite references, something I’m committed to getting better at, and rarely do bloggers cite sources – reliable ones at any rate. So, they need to be read with as much caution, if not more, than a newspaper which is ultimately fact checked, source-referenced and legal-approved before publishing. I just don’t like that most of the content locally is not local at all. The CTV support local TV campaign made me laugh out loud.

    Anyway. I don’t pretend to be always right (or left depending on the case of course.) I’m biased – I believe in a role for government. I’m not crazy about our economic structures or the vast amounts of inefficient subsidies we endure, the lack of equity in finance or the whole lack of local thought about how to grow a sustainable local economy and help the people who live here work, rather than find other people (and I do love immigration don’t get me wrong) to better our City. I think we’ll have a creative City when most variety stores have a few Gay porn mags, rather than a few variety stores having most of the gay porn mags (just a little study I have been conducting as a thought to our bohemian index. seriously.) We need to think Local more – shop, purchase, source, trade, barter, eat, grow more local. That’s London’s answer in a nut-shell.

  3. May 21, 2011 at 4:42 am

    According to the Terms Of Reference there’s no maximum number of task force members. So if you’re interested in joining us I suggest that you contact Elaine Gamble (egamble@london.ca).

    As for staying informed about things that interest you, I continue to lobby the City to start offering subject-specific RSS feeds. They understand the limitations of the current website and plan to move it to a different platform, so hopefully this is something that will be offered eventually.

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