Where do you find the separation between your role as a public servant and as a resident?
That query was brought up during the Dearborn Board of Aldermen meeting on July 9. Mayor Jamie Morey noted he had multiple text messages and phone calls about a post on a Facebook page. The complaint was about a story in a Platte County paper about a lawsuit levied against the North Platte School District.
The name of the Facebook page is Dearborn, Mo. It has no affiliation with the city, nor is it the official page, rather a forum for residents to share stories of what is happening. I’m part of the page and that is how I learned about a fire that happened in town last week. It can be useful.
The page is run by current aldermen Steve Wilson and Breanna Cheadle, the administrators. They ran the Facebook page before earning spots on the board. Cheadle noted in the meeting there is a disclaimer listed on the page stating there is no connection to the city.
The lawsuit story is news.
It appears, someone got in the mayor’s ear and thought otherwise.
“I don’t think it looks good for the mayor asking for a school board story to be suppressed,” Cheadle said.
The lawsuit is public record. Yes, it will cost money to get the information on the allegations, but both papers in Platte City agreed that story is newsworthy.
An audience member in the crowd during the board meeting said they ‘thought it would be wrong’ to take it off the Facebook page, especially since it is out there. It would be one thing to post about a lawsuit without the full information. Posting on hearsay, if you will, is wrong.
Morey is concerned with the optics of it. Fair enough.
Writing a story based on official court documents should in no way be suppressed or hidden from the public because someone doesn’t like it. Tough break.
Wilson made a solid point. Why doesn’t Dearborn have its own social media presence by now?
That goes for the school too. It is hard to find any school without an active Twitter account. It’s hard to find towns without Facebook pages or Twitter accounts, or both.
Do a quick search for Weston, Parkville, Riverside, Platte City and Kansas City. Do one on Dearborn.
“You need an official page, Wilson said. “I can funnel them all to you and go get their city information from you and go to me to get their garbage.
“Am I doing anything illegal? No.”
The assistant city clerk mentioned that they are public servants 24/7 and what they do reflects on the city. Yes, I get that. Same with most jobs. If you go on a rant in public and people see it, you will lose your job nine out of 10 times. Or in the case of the Chicago parks officer, not doing your job will cost you your job.
But here is my question. Why doesn’t the city have an official page? They have an official website, but in today’s social media-driven world, that isn’t enough. Same goes for the school district. You have to find ways to connect with your audience that is constantly evolving.
And you have to know, you can’t hide stories in this social media world.
Cody Thorn is publisher of The Citizen. He may be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @Citizen_CodyT.