Ah, City Hall is at last poised to tiptoe into the 21st century, communications-wise, as the City Council adopted this week a social-media policy. This action seems a little overdue, given the fact the vast majority of its constituents have been active on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other similar platforms for some years now. But all the same, it's heartening to know the day will soon come when city officials and La Cañada Flintridge residents will be better able to engage with each other.
I understand the city's pain making this shift from relying on old-fashioned newsletters, brief items posted on their website and televised City Council meetings to more actively participating by releasing items much more frequently on social media. We felt a little heartache ourselves here at the paper when the new dawn arrived and area people began gradually setting up La Cañada-specific blogs, Facebook pages and Twitter accounts to broadcast their own versions of the neighborhood news. It was obvious we needed to step up our own game and become more active users of social media so we could get properly vetted stories and breaking news into the hands of the masses.
We needed to take the lead because, like it or not, most of our readers are online daily. Although for the foreseeable future there will still be people who love to get their news from print media (I'm one of them), the truth is that fewer and fewer people are leaving the breakfast table with newspaper ink on their hands.
The Valley Sun has had a dynamic website since 1997, which we've always updated with breaking news, but we needed more. So sometime around 2009, we began actively using Facebook and Twitter to capture as many eyes as possible.
I wasn't the first one on the staff to become comfortable posting items on social media. But baby steps led to more confidence, and the reward has been great: The numbers — and the input from those who follow us online — demonstrate we're being followed by those who care about our local news. We were all excited last week when we achieved a small milestone and exceeded 1,000 “likes” on our Facebook page (and the more we get, the better we'll be able to disseminate news, so if you haven't “liked” us yet, please do!).
It's challenging to get people's attention in a era when everyone is pulled in multiple directions and is gathering news around the clock by reading a series of 140-character tweets. But I'm confident that the city, if it dedicates some effort to posting items often (and without too many boring, bureaucratic words) will succeed in harnessing the attention of La Cañada residents who want to, and need to, engage with the town they call home. As we are learning, it's a worthy endeavor.
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