(Updated: See bottom.)
Georgia Straight editor Charlie Smith has brought public some attention to odd behaviour by Mayor Gregor Robertson in his treatment of the media on the hot topic of affordable housing. It is worth noting. Media were invited to a Sunday morning media briefing. But the whole scoop was given to a preferred reporter and the article printed a day ahead. This gives one the sense the whole thing is a controlled publicity initiative.
Mayor Gregor Robertson plans news conference after giving exclusive to preferred reporter
by Charlie Smith, editor, Georgia Straight
Tomorrow morning, reporters are going to drag their butts out to the corner of West 43rd Avenue and Alberta Street to hear Mayor Gregor Robertson speak about an affordable rental housing initiative.
When I saw the notification, I planned on attending because rental housing is something of great interest to our readers.
Then I picked up today’s Globe and Mail and saw the entire story had already been covered by Frances Bula.
…. I’m hoping the media joins me in boycotting tomorrow’s news conference. I’m going to protest by having coffee with a friend instead.
A news conference boycott would send a strong message to the mayor’s office. Imagine if CBC, Global B.C., CTV B.C., Citytv, the Vancouver Sun, the Province, CKNW, News 1130, Roundhouse Radio, Ming Pao, Sing Tao, 24 Hours, Metro, Fairchild, the South Asian community papers, the Korean community papers, the Philippine community papers, the Source, the Afro News, Xtra!, Omni TV, the National Post, and the Vancouver Courier all took a pass, but that won’t happen.
Here are the key points in today’s Globe and Mail story:
1. The mayor wants developers to allocate 25 percent of units in new projects to be rented to people whose incomes are between $30,000 and $80,000.
2. This could be financed by providing these developers with more density.
See the Straight for the full comment, plus a link to the Globe & Mail article referenced (note that it appears to have been updated in the online version as of Sunday morning).
Subsequently, more information has come out. It appears Mr. Smith made an erroneous assumption that Ms. Bula had received the scoop from City connections, but Sunday morning, she took to Twitter to explain, saying this tip for her story came from developers, “just like Brian Jackson firing. They knew days before because planning staff knew.” Her story in The Globe & Mail yesterday, she says, was from an inside scoop from the development industry, and when City staff got word of it, City officials rushed to hold a quickly-organized sidewalk media briefing on a Sunday morning. So the sequence appears to have been information leak ==> scoop story in print ==> decision to rush to let other media get the information quickly. And this pattern was followed in the past in the firing of former chief planner Brent Toderian, the early departure of chief planner Brian Jackson, and an Olympic Village financing story.
There are various issues here. Information leaks from the development industry, the race by a reporter to get a scoop, the City staff rushing to get the full story out, and then the rest of the media receiving the information.
Stepping back a bit on this news story about rental housing policy, we could wonder about the process of policy making. This appears to be a relatively major policy decision. Who made the decision, who was consulted, and did all of our elected officials in the municipal government, of whom there are now ten, know that this was coming and have a chance to have a say on behalf of the citizens of Vancouver?