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Monday, June 30, 2014

A simple request to our County leaders

     One of the things which I have learned in four years of blogging is that things you write reach people in our community in unique ways.  I have met people for the first time and find out that they have known me through some of my blogs.  It is somewhat strange to have this knowledge only flow in one direction.  They know a good bit about me and I know nothing about them.  I have heard the same thing expressed by well known celebrities.  All of this does point to the reality today that we can communicate in ways that are very different than in the pre-digital past.  For our elected officials holding town meetings or sending out mailings aren't bad they are just so old school to the way persons under 40 receive their information today.
     This ability to communicate in new, powerful ways has many times been lost on the leaders within our communities.  Oh, they may have established a campaign website, a Facebook page or use Twitter to highlight events they have attended but they shy away from communicating in a more in-depth manner using social media.  Blogging gives officials the ability to engage and communicate with a community audience in ways that go beyond the other superficial social medias.  A blog gives a leader an opportunity to dialogue in a more reciprocal manner.
     I have talked with a number of individuals in our community who hold very responsible positions about the possibility of doing a blog.  I quickly sense their uncomfortableness with "putting themselves out there" in such an uncontrollable manner.  They have all heard about the anonymous "flamethrowers" who haunt social media with their harsh comments.  They are also "risk adverse" to saying anything that can reflect negatively on themselves or their employer.  We have all heard about people losing their job because of one of their comments on social media.  These risks can be managed in a way that doesn't eliminate the potential for meaningful communication.
      This brings me to the one example of how blogging can be used effectively.  Tom Coale is one of our most impactful bloggers and community leaders.  The thing that I respect Tom for (among many) is that when he was elected to the Columbia Association Board he didn't stop blogging but used his blog to inform Columbia residents on the discussions taking place in the Board meeting.  Many of the Board discussions were controversial, especially the Inner Arbor plans. Tom always presented the discussions in a way that no one else did.  We could read the Columbia Flyer and learn the basics of the plans but Tom gave us the context of the discussion.  I have been an open advocate for Tom's election to the Maryland Legislature.  Much of why I have taken this step with Tom and not with others running for election in the County is that I know Tom will bring this type of communication if he is elected as a delegate.   I would look forward to reading Tom's blogs on the workings of the Legislature.  Unless I have missed them I don't think any of our County legislators have done this.
      We now have new leadership at our hospital and with the Columbia Association.  We will have a new County Executive and new members of both our County Council and State delegation. I would like to (respectfully) tell them that Howard County is a digitally sophisticated community that would respond well to each of them considering how they can digitally communicate with the community.  Anyone up to doing a blog?  Come on in the water is fine.  I will be waiting to have you join our blog parties as a fellow blogger and not just as a blog reader.



Tom Coale (HCR) said...

Thank you for the kind words, Duane. I agree that this is a great medium, but requires a certain amount of risk acceptance.

duanestclair said...

I agree that everything we do has some risk. We frequently hear people talk about how the younger generations, having grown up with social media, may not have as clear an idea of the boundaries. You are a good example how the use of social media can be managed well. A lesson I expect to see others try in the future.

Frank Hecker said...

I've never understood the concern about comments. All major blogging platforms allow comments to be either turned off or moderated, so that they won't appear without approval. (Only silly newspapers allow unmoderated comments without someone closely monitoring them.) I think there's still value in blogging without comments. People don't or at least shouldn't expect busy elected officials to be allowing and responding to arbitrary blog comments.