Greensboro city manager needs a blog of his own

Today’s N&R column by yours truly can be found below the following comments.  Other bloggers’ takes on the meeting can be found at the end of this post.

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Last Friday’s meeting (audio) between bloggers and Mitch Johnson and Engineering Director Butch Simmons didn’t sway me one way or the other on the various issues discussed. 

I think Willow Oaks could have been handled better, but I don’t think Johnson or Simmons made mistakes that rise to the level of impeachment.  Same with the Bryant Electric flare up.  It was a complicated project bid under 6 year-old plans.  Bryant mishandled (to put it lightly) some things and the City Manager acknowledged flaws in the way the city documented the scope of the project.  A settlement had to be reached and it was.  Bryant will not be doing anymore bidding because they are out of business.

As to the rest of the issues raised, all the meeting proved to me is there are two sides to every story.  Which was Johnson’s point from the git-go.  Not everyone is going to agree with explanations provided, but that’s just the way it has always been and, I dare say, always will be.

The most significant thing that came from the meeting, at least from my view, was the willingness of communications director Pat Boswell and Mitch Johnson to explore ways to better engage and inform the public when information that is damaging to the City comes a’callin’.

I believe that official Greensboro is 99% comprised of good, decent folks who are serving the public to the best of their ability.  Mistakes are made, but rarely.  When mistakes are uncovered, however, we jump on them like stink on poop.  THAT is unfair because we ignore the good stuff that the city does, but, again, that’s just the way it is.

Here’s one way the city can counteract…  (Good quip, by the way, from Piedmont Publicus)

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By David Hoggard  2/28/07

I know you probably don’t read blogs, but you will be soon.  According to HarrisInteractive’s 2006 survey, only 24% of computer owners read blogs frequently or occasionally, but that’s up from 11% in 2004.  So, bloggers are ensnaring folks in their ever-expanding, cacophonous, and tangled web at pretty good clip.

Last week local bloggers might have caught themselves a government.

In response to what he believed to be unfair and one-sided criticism of his offices, city manager Mitch Johnson invited local bloggers to a first-of-its-kind meeting to air it all out. (N&R coverage here)

Representing viewpoints that ran the gamut from “Mitch is a liar� to “Mitch is a pretty decent guy under great stress�, the six of us in attendance each came away agreeing, mainly, on one thing:  Mitch Johnson needs a blog of his own.

Johnson readily admits to being a “lurker� around local blogs, meaning, he reads what people are writing but doesn’t participate in the conversation.  He lamented the fact that the local blogosphere doesn’t adhere to the ways of traditional media.  More to the point, Johnson says he gets frustrated when his office is not contacted to get his side of whatever story is currently under scrutiny by local bloggers.

While I understand his frustration, that’s not how blogs operate.

Being the unpaid and unvarnished voices of their authors, blogs, for the most part, are neither fair nor balanced.  That’s not to say that bloggers aren’t interested in the truth, but are – again, for the most part – a lazy lot.  Fact checking is chiefly accomplished by hyper-linking to documentation and information that is readily available online.  Bloggers suffer from cyber-arrogance.  If we can’t link to it, it’s not there. 

In the hyper-linked realm of weblogging, the City of Greensboro hardly exists.

Greensboro’s nationally recognized corps of blogging “citizen journalists� is the wild west of information dissemination and political opinion.  So far, official Greensboro has responded to this new journalistic lawlessness with a single hired gun in the person of Councilwoman Sandy Carmany.

Bravely, forcefully and alone, Carmany has become the de-facto voice for our city government in the rough and tumble blog world.  Her blog, Sandy’s Place, is the go-to site for city council goings on.  However, even as good as she is at communicating, more voices from official Greensboro are needed.

On his own blog, N&R Editor John Robinson weighed in on last week’s meeting.
 
“The meeting is another example of how the worlds of media and authority have changed. The administrative leader of a mid-sized city reads blogs and agrees to a meeting to speak with his critics and answer questions.  … The next step is for Mitch to blog. It’s time-consuming, yes. But the benefits are significant. You learn things, gain respect from skeptics and get your message out unfiltered by outlets such as, well, mine…â€?

Pretty amazing stuff when the head of our local daily urges our city’s chief executive to circumvent the traditional role of his own newspaper.

The world of news and public relations is changing rapidly and Greensboro’s blogging community is at the forefront of this change.  To his credit, Johnson understands that well enough to invite a rag-tag bunch of bloggers to explore ways for us all to improve the level and quality of local public discourse.

We bloggers will do out share, but its time for official Greensboro to theirs as well.  The local blogging genie will not return to its dank, dark bottle and Johnson knows it.

Get a blog, Mitch.

 

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4 Comments

  1. Posted February 28, 2007 at 11:21 pm | Permalink

    Have monthly meetings with bloggers Mitch.

    This one helped your credibility many percent.

    Good post Hogg!

  2. Posted March 1, 2007 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

    “Have monthly meetings with bloggers Mitch.

    This one helped your credibility many percent.”

    I don’t think there would be consensus on that opinion from those in attendance.

    Last week’s meeting is probably not going to be repeated, and the request for more online communication from the city and from Mitch be likely not bear any fruit.

  3. Posted March 1, 2007 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

    Insert “will” instead of “be” in my post.

    That’s what i get for trying to talk to a client on the phone and write at the same time.

  4. Billfaster
    Posted March 2, 2007 at 9:49 pm | Permalink

    Quoted above:

    …”Same with the Bryant Electric flare up. It was a complicated project bid under 6 year-old plans.”

    Humm…Bid under 6 year old plans. I find it hilarious that city officials defend their incompetence with more incompetence… Just who allowed for the bidding based off of 6 year old plans? If the City itself cannot provide accurate information regarding its very own infrastructure, then we are in deep trouble!

    Why has this not been addressed. Who’s responsibility was it to provide accurate city plans? We should call for an investigation of this person’s behavior and have them fired or disciplined accordingly. This is a pretty large breach of one’s duties that lead to a waste of our tax dollars and quite frankly something should be done. I’m tired of seeing the plundering of my hard earned money by this city’s officials…