Today’s Editorial January 27: Media relations 101

It would be a severe understatement
to say that the Cayman Islands has changed
vastly within the past decade. One of those changes is that the public – and
the press – are now much more demanding about access to government and non-government
information.  

The stone of openness and
transparency has started rolling down the hill.

Sadly, the reaction from many
public and private sector quarters has been to try and push it back up again.

Recently, we have seen numerous
examples of how the old media relations policy just isn’t going to work for the
Cayman Islands in the modern world.

The fact is, just about everyone
with a computer can be a journalist of sorts today.  Even if official channels are shut while those
privy to the information take a wait-and-see approach, chances are that a
blogger or forum commenter, if not someone in the traditional media, is already
reporting the matter.

Many of the bloggers and forum
contributors have no formal journalism training and as such, aren’t bound by
the same rules of responsible reporting by which we here at the Caymanian
Compass abide.

Invariably, when official
in-the-know sources remain silent, what is reported can be inaccurate or at
least one-sided. Then, just as invariably, the government or private sector
will complain that the person or agency reporting on the matter got it wrong or
was biased.

By then, the horse has bolted the
stable and it’s too late, as many in Cayman’s government and international
finance sector have painfully discovered over the past few years.

Contrary to the opinion of at least
one radio talk-show host who believes there are times when the government
should control the media, we believe the opposite is true.

When something happens that could
negatively affect the reputation of the Cayman Islands,
it is pure folly these days to take a reactionary approach to the dissemination
of information. Those that don’t handle news proactively and quickly are
inviting problems.

The days of stories that matter
being squelched just because one person refuses to speak are over. It doesn’t
matter who is putting out the information, the point is someone always will.

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