Globe & Mail reporter Frances Bula is a veteran City Hall reporter
Frances Bula would appear to have had enough of Vision's controlling system of spin control. In an almost Bill Bennett-esque blasting of Vancouver City Hall, our fellow civic affairs blogger and Globe & Mail journalist calls out the new policy of controlling every syllable coming out of 12th & Cambie in her latest post. Titled "New Vancouver city hall rule: Staff should be seen but not heard" Frances describes what is happening as a "sad day" for coverage of the affairs in our city.
This is unprecedented and a sad day for everyone who covers the hall. I’m also not totally surprised at this rather blunt statement. I’ve noticed over the past while that staff sound more nervous and cautious when I call to have them explain something to me. I’ve heard through various channels that staff have been told bluntly not to say anything about particular high-profile issues, like the casino.
Bula describes how FOI is turning into a snarled mess with the departure of Paul Hancock. She also explains that it is the influence of certain civic affairs blogs that have stirred up the culture of extreme secrecy:
I can understand the Vision team wanting to figure out new ways to deal with messaging. They’ve facing a new, energetic and unusual kind of opposition in Citycaucus.com, two former staffers in Sam Sullivan’s office who have used their insider knowledge of city hall to get information, through FOI and other means.
But in their struggle for control, they’ve gone too far. In the past, it’s been accepted practice that reporters wait until city reporters are posted online before calling councillors (even if we knew about them in advance), to give councillors a chance to read them before getting calls.
We often recommend stories by other media, and have done in the past with Frances. But this is a really good post by her, and we heartily recommend it to our readers.
As for the promise of increased openness & transparency at Vancouver City Hall by Gregor Robertson, I guess we can finally put that notion to bed now, eh?
UPDATE: Jeff Lee of the Vancouver Sun also weighs in on this new paradign of silence at City Hall. Kudos to Jeff, Frances and others such as 24 Hours' Bob Mackin who have kicked up a fuss about the increasingly opaque and closed way of doing business at the City of Vancouver.
- post by Mike