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Wayne Independent - Honesdale, PA
  • Communication is the key

  • I was thinking the other day about how I have been in the communications business for, well, longer than I like to admit.
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    I was thinking the other day about how I have been in the communications business for, well, longer than I like to admit.
    Let's just say I'm pretty seasoned when it comes to communication.
    And that's what is so fascinating.
    You would think that over time, and with the advent of technology, that communications would improve over time.
    In some ways, communication has improved tremendously. People are so much more connected with the outside world and with other people.
    The instant communications that are now part of our society have greatly increased the speed in which things get done.
    But there is one thing which hasn't changed — human beings.
    Because of that factor, the lack of communication expertise has not improved. Humans are, well, human.
    Over the years, we in this business always joke that our weakest link is communications, even though we are in the communications business. It's kind of like the plumber having leaky pipes.
    The point does not get lost on us, trust me. We can sometimes be lacking in this department, even as we set in close proximity to each other.
    Communication, too, can be lacking in many respects, especially when it comes to people in government and those who deal with people in government.
    I'm the first to acknowledge that sometimes, it is better when good decisions are made without a lot of public hoopla. In some cases, what goes unsaid can be good for the whole.
    But in most cases, this just isn't the case.
    Page 2 of 4 - I couldn't begin to count the number of times I've watched as good intentions go sour all because of lack of communications.
    I've watched as private-public partnerships have been formed with nothing but the best intentions. But in the long run, many times these things came apart at the seams because of a lack of communication.
    There are famous examples of this when it comes to stadiums and shopping malls and major developments.
    But there are probably many more not-so-famous instances in which the good of the whole was the intention but it ended up in a train wreck.
    One of the reasons these situations arise is a lack of knowledge on the part of those involved.
    Many times, those in private business don't understand how things work when they deal with public entities. Anytime you are dealing with public boards, the amount of information which has to be released is almost 100 percent.
    Those in private business don't get that sometimes because that's not how they are used to operating.
    I remember an instance many years ago when an auto shop was doing a lot of work for a city. The problem was one of the owners of the shop had a connection to the city via the council. There didn't seem to be any malice involved and the shop was doing a good job.
    Problem was, the person who had the connection to both the city and shop didn't reveal that was the case. It appeared that work was being shoveled to that garage in order to benefit that person.
    That may have not been the case at all, however, once this became public, the outrage was tremendous. It became a major scandal in the community and ultimately, that shop lost a lot of business.
    It really had nothing to do with the work which was being done, rather, it was a lack of understanding on many fronts which led to this controversy. It could have all been easily avoided with one thing — good communications.
    Page 3 of 4 - That is where the failing so often happens.
    The government is an interesting thing, to say the least. The government relies strictly on the public to provide services which are used by the public.
    That means the public would like those services to be adequate and above board.
    I don't think that's asking too much. It's the way the Founding Fathers envisioned this experiment we are living. They saw transparency as the key to success in a democracy.
    They knew that any appearance of impropriety would almost certainly spell doom on their grand plan.
    And it has worked.
    All you have to do is look back in history to see how well this has worked.
    The Watergate scandal is the standard by which all other scandals are measured. In that case, transparency was a dirty word inside the bowels of government. Secrecy was the basis for the Nixon Administration because of the paranoia from the President.
    Everything they did seemed to snowball into something worse and instead of admitting to this, they kept letting the snowball grow.
    In the end, the snowball was just too much and it wiped out everyone involved.
    This very scenario applies to much smaller matters and much smaller situations.
    But the principle remains the same.
    I had a publisher who said a common phrase all of the time: "Perception is 90 percent of reality."
    That is so true.
    Page 4 of 4 - What people perceive, though it may not be right, becomes the truth in the eyes of many. Not matter the intentions, if the perception is of wrongdoing, it is hard to overcome.
    This is especially true when it comes to public money. No matter the intentions or the good will, the perception is what counts.
    It's a hard lesson for many people to learn and so never learn how the system operates.
    As a journalist, I sit in a unique position because I am charged with laying out the facts and then letting the public decide the outcome. It's a big burden on the part of journalists, but if done right, it works to perfection.
    This burden is not taken lightly and it's crucial to understand the fact. But in the end, this awesome responsibility is a vital part of how the system works and I, for one, am proud to be a part of how it operates.
     
    Little is editor of The Wayne Independent and can be reached at editor@wayneindependent.com.
     

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