Wednesday, December 17, 2008

"Meet the Media" 2008

I want to thank the reporters, writers and bloggers who took time from their schedules today to meet the freshman class of the House of Representatives, and to participate in a roundtable discussion on covering the legislature.

The media representatives were (in no particular order other than going around the table):
David Shapiro, a writer/blogger appearing in The Honolulu Advertiser; Stefanie Sakamoto, who writes a new blog for the Hawaii Credit Union League; Larry Geller, who writes a blog called Disappeared News; BJ Reyes, political reporter for the Honolulu Star-Bulletin; Wayne Yoshioka, political reporter for Hawaii Public Radio; Derrick DePledge, political reporter for The Honolulu Advertiser; Don Ray, reporter/blogger for the Grassroot Institute; Pearl Hahn, writer/policy analyst for the Grassroot Institute; Adrienne LaFrance, managing editor for The Honolulu Weekly; Gina Mangieri, reporter for KHON; Malia Zimmerman, writer/publisher of the Hawaii Reporter; and Colette Fox, producer, Hawaii Public Television.

The House representatives were Clift Tsuji, Kyle Yamashita, Joey Manahan, Karl Rhoads, Cindy Evans, Denny Coffman, Henry Aquino, Jessica Wooley, Isaac Choy, Chris Lee, and Blake Oshiro.

We discussed a broad range of subjects over about an hour and a half, including:

*The media may not be your "friend", but it is not your enemy either.  It is not the role of the media to be your friend, and when being interviewed, you should take responsibility for what you say and how you say it.  

*The importance of access and transparency.  The issue of posting amendments to bills so that the public has greater opportunity to review changes.

*Whether the House should change the scheduling of the "A" bracket committees to the morning so that television can cover them more readily.  Should the legislature make scheduling decisions around the needs of the legislature anyway?  

*Giving members adequate time to respond to an interview request before stating that they were "unavailable".  Conversely, members should be aware of reporters' deadlines and return calls in a timely manner if they want to be included in the story.

*Why media cover the legislature less and less.  Better communicating the "why should we care?" factor.

*What recourse do lawmakers have when media gets it wrong?

*How both government and media are using social media (Twitter, Facebook) to reach audiences. 

*How and why media choose to cover the stories that they do on any given day.

*How more lawmakers should start blogging and commenting on others' blogs as another way to get their message out.

I'm sure I've missed other points of discussion and invite people who were there to add and comment. Perhaps they will on their own blogs or commentaries.  In my opinion, it was a valuable exchange of information.  We all know that the media landscape is changing, and that we are no longer reaching the audiences that we'd like about the work being done at the legislature.  It's important work that affects our daily lives, our future, and the direction of our state.  Regardless of one's comfort with communications, it's critical to get out an accurate and fair picture of what is being accomplished, or not accomplished, at the taxpayers' expense.  The premise of today's meeting is that in order to build a stronger working relationship between the media and the legislature, we need to better understand what the other does, and how the other works.  

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