Britt Santowski on behalf of Sooke PocketNews presented to Council, at the Regular Council meeting held in Council Chambers on June 13, 2016. Despite a staff email strongly recommending that no decision be made by Council on this Delegation, a motion was made and passed by Council, four in favour, three opposed.
The Delegation presented by Santowski requested that Sooke PocketNews be considered a viable communication resource for the District of Sooke. Referenced in the presentation were official documents showing that SPN was registered as an online newspaper, current statistics of SPN’s reach, along with five examples of the reach and impact SPN has had in Sooke.
The request of Council was that they put media releases into a centrally accessible location for all to access, and that they incorporate Sooke PocketNews into their communication plan and advertising budget.
The following motion was put forward by Councillor Brenda Parkinson and seconded by Councillor Ebony Logins:
“That Council accept the Sooke PocketNews as an official media source, and that all local media outlets be given equal opportunity.”
Mayor Tait noted that a communications strategic plan was currently being developed by the CAO and the Leadership Team, and was currently in draft form.
Councillor Rick Kasper referenced an email sent from “staff,” “strongly recommended that we not make any decision this evening.” He also noted that the CAO was “in the lower mainland” at a conference. Kasper considered this a motion on the fly and would not support it.
Councillor Ebony Logins objected to being directed by staff on how to vote at this Council Meeting. She noted that an email was received two hours before the start of the meeting, and that Council had known for some time that this Delegation was being presented.
Councillor Kerrie Reay also viewed it as a motion on the fly, and to be consistent with her voting history both this term and last, would not support it. Both Reay and Kasper viewed it as premature and wanted to see what staff recommended in their report before proceeding.
Councillor Kevin Pearson liked the motion, which was amended to include “all local media” on his request. He was one of the three who voted against the motion.
Councillor Bev Berger viewed the motion as non-binding, and wanted it to be inclusive of all media. Mayor Tait noted that on Coun. Pearson’s request, that change was incorporated into the motion.
Ultimately, the motion passed, with Mayor Tait and Councillors Parkinson, Logins and Berger supporting the motion; Councillors Kasper, Pearson and Reay were opposed.
Mayor Tait viewed the motion as a direction to staff of what to include in their communication strategy, as it is being crafted.
Following is the SPN transcript of the presentation and the conversation that followed. As always, the final accurate version is the video (below, queued to this event); all typographical errors are those of SPN.
Presentation script that was read at Council:
Britt Santowski, Sooke PocketNews
I would like to submit to Council that Sooke PocketNews, formally registered as an online newspaper, be considered a viable communication resource for the District of Sooke. While it’s been called many things, at its core, Sooke PocketNews is an electronic newspaper. You have that paperwork in the Agenda before you.
For your interest, social media enables networking, and a blog about the personal voice of the website owner. SPN does not facilitate networking. The opinions that are posted on SPN are primarily those of the readership; they are those of your constituents.
Call it what you want. It doesn’t’ change the fact that the readership numbers of SPN are astronomical. The reach of this publication when I left today to come to this meeting was 165,050 over the past 30 days. That’s an average of 5,500 hits every day.
How effective is it? Five examples:
- A man was looking to find a former colleague who had moved to Sooke. After going through other avenues, he turned to SPN. By 7:30 pm we posted his letter; by 11, contact had been made.
- A couple from Alberta read on Sooke PocketNews the closure of the Reading Room; instead, the Reading Room did not close. They bought the business, moved to Sooke, and kept that business and those jobs here.
- We posted the RCMP’s recent search for a missing person. That article received over 19,000 views; the Facebook post reached over 13,000 people, and it was shared 339 times.
- The people of Sooke. We won the Chamber’s People Choice Award, the only peer-elected award handed out that evening. You have in the package I just handed out before you, pages of testimonials, from Sooke businesses and Sooke residents.
- Even your staff and your council have turned to SPN to post items when they want the readership’s attention.
Sooke PocketNews is not dependent on a single advertising account. It’s a profitable business with a strong community support.
My “ask” of Council is two-fold. First, that the District copy all media releases into a central publicly-accessible space. That way, there is no exclusion and no preferential treatment, accidental of otherwise. And second, that the District of Sooke consider advertising in this online newspaper. We both, after all, serve the same primary client, which is the residents of Sooke.
I believe that if Sooke Council is genuinely interested in communicating with the people of Sooke, effectively and repeatedly, you will incorporate Sooke PocketNews into your communication plan and your advertising budget.
Mayor Tait: Thank you Ms. Santowski. I will share that our CAO, working with our Leadership Team, is crafting a current communication strategy. We don’t really have one per se in the municipality at the moment that is relevant, it could be a bit dated. And within this, it’s including social media and online media and the like, to bring it into more relevant terms. So that is in the works right now. It’s still a draft, and the intent, is my understanding, is to look at all forms of media including yours and bringing that forward. We don’t have a policy in place right now for media so that is something that is being actively worked on at the moment.
Santowski: My first ask though was about putting all press releases on a centrally accessible space.
Mayor Tait: That’s part of this strategy. And same with re-aligning our website so that it’s easier to navigate. The resources are, I mean even sometimes Councillors and myself have difficulty accessing the information that we want, so all of that is being done at the moment and is all just a part of the same piece so that we can all access pieces.
Coun. Logins: Thank you for coming, I think it was a great presentation and I liked the little tips that you gave about how you have reached out to the community with your business. It’s been a great asset to the community ever since it started. So thank you for that. And congratulations again on your award with the Chamber. That was quite an accomplishment. We do, as the Mayor said, have that communications plan coming and I would love to have SPN as a part of that as well. Thank you.
Coun. Pearson: Thank you Ms. Santowski for your presentation. And I think as the world changes we have to realize that there’s different mediums for communication, so your delegation is timely because again we have asked for that as a part of our strategic plan for communicating with the public, so thank you.
Coun. Parkinson: And just to get the ball rolling, I’d like to move that the District of Sooke accept the Sooke PocketNews as a viable communications resource and that all three news outlets, the Sooke Voice News, the Sooke News Mirror, and Sooke PocketNews outlets be all given equal opportunity.
Mayor Tait: Just amend your motion that it’s the Westshore Voice. Is there a seconder for the motion? Seconded by Councillor Logins. Discussion on the motion.
Counc. Pearson: I like the motion but I don’t want to restrict it to only three newspapers in Sooke because if we’re look … You said three on there? So I think that… I like the motion, but I think that you got to make it more wide open to newspapers in general.
Coun. Parkinson: That’s perfectly fine to do that.
Coun. Pearson: I don’t think you should limit it to that, because I think that’s part of our strategic plan we’re going to look at all mediums of communications as I understand it.
Mayor Tait: That is valid because with the Times Colonist, there are subscribers locally, it is online, there may be times where there is relevant pieces, and other local magazines may appear.
Coun. Kasper: I’d just like to remind all Council members that our staff had actually sent us an email regarding this matter, and strongly recommended that we not make any decision this evening because of the fact a strategic communications plan is being prepared and that’s going to be done in conjunction with meeting all the provisions of our overall strategic plan. I personally think it’s premature. I don’t like making these types of decisions on the fly. No disrespect to the presenter. But I think that we should actually see the information that our staff is putting together. Our CAO is in the Lower Mainland right now at a conference that’s dealing with economic development aspects around social media and other forms, venues of publication and getting the word out about promoting job opportunities within communities, municipalities etc. So I cannot support the recommendation or the motion on that basis. I would agree to defer the decision until we receive our communication and strategic plan.
Coun. Logins: I was actually not happy that we received an email from staff directing us how to vote before the Council meeting. And I don’t see how this, this motion here doesn’t restrict what the staff have been working on, it just says that we would like to include the Sooke PocketNews in there as well. There will be no restrictions on our communications with the public based on this motion. It just acknowledges that all local media outlets should be given equal opportunity, and that’s perfectly fair.
Coun. Reay: In terms of the motion and the two requests, I think it is premature to be looking at financial implications that could come from this decision, and as I said through my first term and now into my second term, I don’t like making these kinds of decisions on the fly. We are aware that there is a report coming, and I’d like to see what that report says before making a decision. It’s not to say that in the future I won’t support it but, consistent with my previous voting is not to be voting on something like this that has financial implications for the District before the report from Staff.
Coun. Parkinson: I did not see it as being a financial obligation. I saw it as giving information to all news outlets so that they all have equal information at the same time, to be able to give out. So it is, right now as Ms. Santowski said, that the information is so that everybody gets it at the same time and it’s given fairly. This is just for information, and it is not, it doesn’t mean that we are going to be putting any ads into anybody’s newspaper. What it means is everyone will have equal opportunity [unclear] news outlets. And I think that that is pretty fair to be doing that.
Mayor Tait: Just a question to Councillor Parkinson, our Director of Corporate Services has posted the motion, and that’s capturing exactly what your intent was?
POSTED MOTION: “That Council accept the Sooke PocketNews as an official media source, and that all local media outlets be give equal opportunity.”
Coun. Parkinson: Correct. And the other thing too is, we did receive an email today about a communications strategy but it was two hours before our meeting, so this was all out before-hand.
Coun. Logins: I just want to clarify that there in no way is this a motion on the fly as we have had this agenda for quite sometime now and known exactly why Ms. Santowski would be here.
Coun. Reay: I just might remind the Council that this a Delegation. This is not an item of business on our agenda and it is in my opinion it is a motion on the fly.
Mayor Tait: Is there any further discussion on the motion? We do have the communication strategy that is in the works and coming our way. I see this as direction or Council’s intent of what Council may feel is direction to staff to include in that Communication strategy as it’s being crafted.
Coun. Berger: I don’t have an issue with the motion as I don’t see it being binding, but just with the forethought that we all know that a report is coming to us. I mean, there was the Sooke Scoop, there was, there’s a few other avenues and I wouldn’t want to exclude anybody. And I would like to see, no disrespect to Ms. Santowski, I’d like to see all news outlets, anybody else that has a registered entity within our community be included so it’s all inclusive, and my hope was that that would come in the Staff report, that anybody that has a registered business within the community of Sooke be treated as an equal opportunity.
Mayor Tait: I think that’s where when Councillor Pearson raised his comments that the motion was changed to broaden that for everyone. It says All media outlets to be given … I don’t think it’s necessary to list them all. Any further discussion on the motion? I’ll call the question then. All those in favour?
Coun. Parkinson, Logins, and Berger, and Mayor Tait in favour.
All those opposed?
Coun. Kasper, Pearson and Reay opposed.
Tait: Motion is carried.
Watch the presentation and following discussion
PS: Just to see who gets this far: It’s pronounced “San” (rhymes with fan) “tow” (rhymes with now) “ski” (like the activity).
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