Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION
Why communicating matters
Ask any journalist who covers the federal government and they will tell you in the past five years it has become increasingly more difficult to get information out of the federal government.
Speak to many people who work in communications jobs for the government (on the department side, not for ministers) and they could tell you of their frustrations trying to answer questions.
Basically almost no communication can occur with a reporter without approval by either the Prime Minister's Office or the Privy Council Office.
Including even basic requests. I had one government spokesperson tell me a simple request for a copy of a press release that had been sent out that morning took several hours to fulfill because the spokesperson had to go all the way up the chain of command for approval. And this was for a press release that had already been made public.
On the weekend the Ottawa Citizen ran a very informative story.
about the breakdown of communications following the earthquake which hit Ottawa June 23.
The problems with the main earthquake website going down within minutes is a whole other ball of wax. The fact that the government of Canada was getting its information about the epicenter and severity of the earthquake from Canadian media who were reporting U.S. data is ridiculous.
The complaints from spokespeople that they weren't allowed to answer media questions until granted approval by the PCO puts a very disturbing sign on this government's communication policies.
It's one thing for a government to decide to control its message to the nth degree when you're dealing with political issues and policy decisions.
It's an entirely different matter when it's a matter of critical information in a possible life and death situation. Thankfully the Ottawa earthquake ended up being minor in the grand scheme of things. Damages were minimal and nobody was killed. But nobody knew that at the time and it will not always be the case.
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About Mia Rabson
Mia Rabson is a born and bred Winnipegger whose interest in politics seemed clear when she dressed up as Prime Minister Brian Mulroney for Halloween in the 7th grade.
Her interest in writing was no surprise to her parents, who learned early in Mia’s life that no piece of blank paper — or wall, for that matter — was safe in her hands.
She holds an honours BA in English from Queen’s University, a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Western Ontario, and has completed a political journalism fellowship in Washington, D.C. with the Washington Centre for Politics and Journalism.
Prior to working for the Winnipeg Free Press, Mia briefly worked for the Detroit News in the paper’s Washington bureau.
Mia joined the Free Press team in February 2001, and in April 2001 was appointed to the Manitoba legislature bureau. In December 2004, she was appointed bureau chief at the legislature. She became the newspaper’s parliamentary bureau chief/national reporter in Ottawa in January 2008.
In 2008 she was nominated for a Michener Award with a team of reporters from the Free Press for its coverage of the province’s child welfare system.
She counts reliving the invasion at Dieppe, France, with veterans of the failed Second World War expedition and overcoming her fear of heights to touch the Golden Boy statue atop the Legislative Building among her favourite experiences as a reporter.
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