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Doug Elniski: how to do it right

By DJ Kelly June 24, 2009

My blog post from yesterday about MLA Doug Elniski’s comments about women and equality made on his blog, and about participants at the Pride Parade made via Twitter quickly became the most viewed post in this blogs history. (Practically doubling from the previous high!)

That post was particularly popular with Government of Alberta officials – at least that’s what the stats tell me. Or at least it was popular enough that I was invited to be a guest on both CBC Radio One’s Calgary Eyeopener and Edmonton AM to talk about my thoughts around Doug’s use of social media and what he said. Once the interviews are posted (if they’re posted) you’ll probably be able to listen to them online at those links.

The interviews were both quick and and I didn’t necessarily get to say everything I wanted, so I thought I’d share those thoughts here.

  1. While I don’t agree with Doug’s comments I fully support him. He said something dumb and he knows it. He’s human, we all say dumb things from time to time. I’m impressed with his handling of the situation however; he did an excellent job apologizing with the openness and honesty that made his Tweets and blog so refreshing in the first place. It wasn’t simply the standard empty apology one has come to expect from a politician. I wish I had an audio link to it so you could here it. It’s worth a listen.

    This is the main reason why I don’t think he should have deleted his blog. His honesty and engagement provided through the blog and Twitter – up until this point at least – I think should have allowed him a fair bit of patience from the public in this situation. If he would have apologized online and allowed us to see the process he was going through to make amends, I would not have been surprised to see come out on the other side with more supporters than before.

    I really do think we want politicians who represent us and are willing to communicate and engage in what concerns us. We don’t need another “walled off politician”. I hope Doug won’t become that because of this error in judgement.

  2. I also hope this won’t discourage other politicians from communicating with constituents via these newer tools. As you can here in the Calgary interview, host Jim Brown mentions the Alberta PC party may be coming out with guidelines to monitor their party members online communications more closely. This concerns me a little.You can make as many guidelines or memos as you like to control a party’s members on the internet, but when it all comes down to it the only point guidelines will really set out is “don’t say dumb things”.

    I would argue that is the same advice you would give to them if they are talking giving a speech, writing a newsletter, or talking casually to friends.

    The point here isn’t that an MLA said these kinds of things online. The point is that he said them period. Social media is not the culprit in this situation. I hope the PC party doesn’t make the mistake of not seeing it the same way.

    The only other option is to not allow your party members to converse with consituents at all. And I think that is a terrible choice.

  3. I did get to touch on this in Calgary interview, but for me when it comes down to it I want my elected officials to be engaged. I want them to hear what I and others are saying, and then make the decision they feel is in the best interests of their constituents. Social media provides direct access that no town hall or newsletter in a mailbox could ever give.In the future this kind of engagement will be expected of our political leaders. Currently about 40% of the population of Alberta is under the age of 30. These are the people learning to expect to know what their friends are doing on a regular basis. This is happening via text messages and status updates. There is no stopping it as it has become rooted in our culture. In 10 years about one third of the voting public will fall into this category and expect to know what politicians are doing on our behalf on a regular basis. To get elected you will NEED to master these tools. Our elected officials may as well lead the way and start on this course now. After all we elect them to be leaders.

PS – Please don’t just have a staffer update your accounts. We can tell the difference and will ridicule you and penalize you for your lack of transparency. Social media is about dialogue. If you are not responding you obviously don’t get it and don’t want to. And at the end of the day, remember this: who wants to elect a person who is non-responsive?

  • Enlightened Savage

    Well said, as always, sir.

  • Enlightened Savage

    Well said, as always, sir.

  • Paul Shields

    I heard his comments too, and I felt the same way. He was honest and seemed true. It wasn't one of those, "I'm sorry that I may have offended anyone" or, "I'm sorry that I sent it to them, they weren't supposed to be on the list".

    I'm also fearful that politicians will distance themselves more than they already have.

    Good post. If Elniski reads this I hope he gets your positive message.

    Paul Shields

  • daveberta

    Great post. I agree. The point isn't that Elniski made the statement online, it's that he made it at all. Access to social media shouldn't be taken away or limited for our elected officials. Maturity and common sense will solve the problem.

  • daveberta

    Great post. I agree.

    The point isn't that Elniski made the statement online, it's that he made it at all. Access to social media shouldn't be taken away or limited for our elected officials. Maturity and common sense will solve the problem.

  • Jill Browne

    I too do not want walled-off politicians and nothing but pre-approved communiques.You (djkelly) are also right to say that social media is not the culprit.Let our politicians use all the media they can get their hands on, and let them show us their true beliefs, whether or not we agree with them.

  • Jill Browne

    I too do not want walled-off politicians and nothing but pre-approved communiques.

    You (djkelly) are also right to say that social media is not the culprit.

    Let our politicians use all the media they can get their hands on, and let them show us their true beliefs, whether or not we agree with them.

  • Paul Shields

    I heard his comments too, and I felt the same way. He was honest and seemed true. It wasn't one of those, "I'm sorry that I may have offended anyone" or, "I'm sorry that I sent it to them, they weren't supposed to be on the list".

    I'm also fearful that politicians will distance themselves more than they already have.

    Good post. If Elniski reads this I hope he gets your positive message.

    Paul Shields