Opinion: Who needs a PIO? You don’t

Print Article

Might as well toss this straight out on the table.

I donít think Kootenai County needs a public information officer, and Iím hoping Sam Taylorís decision not to take the job will stop this rush to fill an invented position.

At the very least, the whole question should be put in the hands of the new commission once two new members come aboard in January.

I can tell you from unpleasant experience that having a PIO does not necessarily improve communications between county commissioners (nor other elected officials) and the general public ó not to mention the media.

What actually happens is that the people who should be talking to us then have a built-in shield ó with the PIO ďtranslatingĒ county information and officialsí opinions into short, noncommittal statements.

I have never seen, not once in a long journalism career, any city or county elected official make a truly critical or controversial statement by going through a press officer.

The Press editorial on Wednesday called for transparency in hiring a new PIO.

I agree, but Ö

To be honest, Iím far more concerned about transparency in executing the job itself.

For instance, itís hard enough to reach commissioners now.

Now imagine putting a PIO in the middle of that.

Could we walk up to a commissioner following a regular meeting, or would everything have to go through a spokesperson?

This is another needless layer of government, and one that commissioners and other county officials could use to wall themselves off from the public.

Yes, the sheriff has a PIO, and frankly I donít think that system works well at all.

I canít speak for the public trying to get answers from the department, but itís not as helpful as necessary for the media.

When communication goes through a PIO, there is no opportunity for follow-up questions or an actual dialogue.

Thatís a poor system, plain and simple.

BEFORE coming to North Idaho, I was the executive editor of the daily paper in Manhattan, Kan.

Manhattan and surrounding Riley County are roughly the same size as our population here.

One huge difference in Kansas, however, was the openness of both city and county government.

There was no PIO in either case.

The city had a deputy administrator ó basically the same job that Taylor held in Coeur díAlene ó to help direct questions or problems to the proper department.

But that was it.

All three county commissioners, plus assorted officials (planning, zoning, assessor, etc.) were routinely available to the public and gave their cellphone numbers to the media.

Inside Manhattan itself, anyone could phone a department head or simply walk into City Hall to meet with whatever official was needed.

Again, direct lines and cellphone numbers were made available to the media.

In my mind, THAT is the type of transparency that gives citizens confidence that they are true partners with the city and county.

There is absolutely no reason we canít do that here, unless Ö

Officials would rather not explain things to us.

I damn sure know which system works best.


Steve Cameron is a columnist for The Press.

A Brand New Day appears Wednesday through Saturday each week. Steveís sports column runs on Tuesday.

Email: scameron@cdapress.com.


Print Article

Read More Steve Cameron, A Brand New Day

Opinion: Another criminal genius bites the dust

November 15, 2018 at 5:00 am | Coeur d'Alene Press Itís kind of a standing joke within the Post Falls Police Department. There are cameras mounted in all the cityís parks, and theyíre each positioned in well-lighted areas to warn off graffiti artist...


Read More

CNN vs. Trump: Where might this go?

November 15, 2018 at 5:00 am | Coeur d'Alene Press This may turn out to be a very bad idea. And the fallout could float just about anywhere ó including North Idaho. Iím assuming we still want to know whatís happening with our own government, yes? ...


Read More

Paige was a sage about age

November 14, 2018 at 5:00 am | Coeur d'Alene Press Hey there, itís Chat Day, and Iím thinking about age. My own, actually. There are just 12 shopping days left until my birthday, in case you were wondering. What got this thing going about age is t...


Read More

This killer was a victim, too

November 10, 2018 at 5:00 am | Coeur d'Alene Press Call it a tragic coincidence of timing. Another one. Or describe it as a wake-up call. Another one. Whatever explanation you choose, the facts wonít go away: Less than a week before Veterans Day,...


Read More

Contact Us

(208) 664-8176
215 N. Second St
Coeur d'Alene, Idaho 83814

©2018 The Coeur d'Alene Press Terms of Use Privacy Policy