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  Office of the City Manager
       
   

MEDIA RELATIONS POLICY

GOAL:

The City of Chula Vista seeks to inform its residents, businesses and visitors by engaging in a pro-active communications program. This program recognizes that one of the most effective and quickest ways to communicate City policies and activities to citizens is by working in partnership with the news media.

POLICY:

Inquiries from the news media are given a high priority by the City of Chula Vista and should be responded to as quickly and efficiently as possible. Every effort should be made to meet media deadlines and to ensure that all information released is accurate.

The Office of Communications is responsible for the City’s media relations, with the exception of most public safety issues. All City employees should notify the Office of Communications (which includes the Public Information Officer/PIO) about media inquiries. The majority of City media requests are initiated when the media contacts the Office of Communications. Because the media often works on tight deadlines, it is important that all departments respond as soon as possible when the Office of Communications requests department information or a spokesperson for the media. Specific guidelines for responding to media requests follow.

CITY SPOKESPERSONS:

Unless otherwise authorized, the City’s spokespersons are:

  • Mayor and City Council members
  • City Manager, Assistant City Managers and Deputy City Manager
  • City Attorney, City Clerk
  • Department Heads and Assistant Department Heads
  • Office of Communications/Public Information Officer
  • Police Department and Fire Department Public Information Officers (Police and Fire have specific media policies that govern their procedures)
  • Exceptions regarding departmental spokespersons may be made at the discretion of the Department Head.

MEDIA INQUIRIES:

MediaAny media inquiries received by other City staff should be referred immediately to the Office of Communications and their Department Head/ Assistant Department Head. An appropriate response to the media would be, “I’m sorry I don’t have the full information regarding that issue. I will give your request to my Department Director (or the City’s Public Information Officer) who will respond to you as soon as he/she is available. “ Please obtain the reporter’s name, phone number (cell too if “in the field”), topic of story and deadline.

SENSITIVE OR CONTROVERSIAL ISSUES:

All television, radio, newspaper or other media inquiries regarding sensitive or controversial issues should always be referred immediately to the Office of Communications and the employee’s Department Head or Assistant Department Head. Communications staff will contact the City Manager’s Office and coordinate a response including designating a spokesperson after consultation with the City Manager’s Office and the appropriate Department.

LITIGATION, PERSONNEL AND ELECTION ISSUES:

Generally, the business conducted by the City of Chula Vista is public, and therefore, is public information. Inquiries regarding pending litigation, matters involving a significant exposure to litigation and certain personnel-related information are exceptions.

Inquiries regarding pending litigation or exposure to litigation should be referred to the City Attorney’s Office and the Office of Communications. Inquiries regarding personnel-related information should be referred to the Human Resources Department and the Office of Communications. The Office of Communications will notify the City Manager’s Office.

Inquiries regarding election and campaign issues should be referred to the City Clerk or Assistant City Clerk. The City Clerk will contact the City Manager’s Office, City Attorney’s Office and Office of Communications as appropriate.

PERSONAL POINTS OF VIEW

It is recognized that all employees have the right to their personal points of view regarding any issue. However, personal points of view may conflict with the City’s official policy. Therefore, City employees who write letters to the editor of any newspaper may not use official City stationary. If an employee chooses to identify himself or herself as a City employee in any personal letter or email to the editor, he or she must include language which states the views set forth in the letter do no represent the views of the City, but rather, are the employee’s personally held opinions. Similar disclaimers must be given if an employee addresses a public meeting, participates in a radio talk show, or is interviewed for a radio or television program unless the employee is officially representing the City. Employees who are representing the City in any of the above formats must identify themselves as an official spokesperson for the City.

GENERAL OR ROUTINE ISSUES:

Broadcast media: Calls from broadcast media (TV and radio) should always be referred immediately to the Office of Communications and the employee’s Department Head or Assistant Department Head. Communications staff will contact the City Manager’s Office and coordinate a response including designating a spokesperson after consultation with the City Manager’s Office and the relevant Department.

Local print media: Calls from local print media regarding most departmental issues and programs may be handled by each department’s Director or Assistant Director. On occasion the Director/Assistant Director may designate an employee in their department to respond to specific questions from print media. The Office of Communications should be informed of these media requests---including the reporter and topic---either before or immediately following these interviews.

CITY-INITIATED INFORMATION:

Most proactive media contact is initiated through the Office of Communications. This includes issuing press releases and media advisories, and personal contacts with reporters and editors for coverage. Departments seeking publicity for events or activities should complete the “Department News Form” and submit to the Office of Communications as soon as possible to ensure the best media coverage of their activities. (Form is attached and also is available on the intranet.)

Departments should not initiate news media contacts before notifying the Office of Communications.

PUBLIC SAFETY ISSUES:

Police OfficersBecause the Police and Fire Departments operate 24/7 and their work generates a high volume of media calls, those departments have designated sworn personnel as media spokespersons and follow specific guidelines when releasing information. Any media calls to other City staff regarding a Police or Fire issue should be referred immediately to the Police Department or Fire Department, as appropriate. All information released to the media by the Police and Fire Departments should be provided immediately to the City Manager’s Office and the Office of Communications; and, when appropriate, those offices should be contacted at the time of major incidents.

CRISIS OR EMERGENCY ISSUES:

During a crisis or major emergency (i.e. earthquake), the procedure for handling the media is highlighted in the City’s Emergency Plan. The plan designates the City’s Public Information Officer as the main point of contact for the media. The Public Information Officer is assisted by alternates including the Police and Fire Public Information Officers who prepare and disseminate emergency public information.



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