Richard Greene

Alarm over fake news is growing, but cities such as Arlington can help

Texas Rangers’ Globe Life Field now 62% complete

The Texas Rangers' new ballpark, Globe Life Field, is now 62 percent complete and on pace to be ready for the 2020 season, club officials said. The Rangers also announced they had inked a multiyear sponsorship deal with Choctaw Casinos & Resorts.
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The Texas Rangers' new ballpark, Globe Life Field, is now 62 percent complete and on pace to be ready for the 2020 season, club officials said. The Rangers also announced they had inked a multiyear sponsorship deal with Choctaw Casinos & Resorts.

As the ways for finding news continue to evolve in the era of electronic media, many cities, like Arlington, have developed robust means of keeping their citizens informed.

The efforts of Arlington’s Office of Communication have been so effective that they have captured seven first place awards, the most in the state, at the Texas Association of Municipal Information Officers conference held this month.

Coincidentally, the respected Pew Research Center has just published survey results showing that Americans rate the quality of news as the fifth-greatest problem in the country today.

We’ll examine those findings, but first, let’s dig into why Arlington has been recognized for doing a superior job engaging its residents.

Over the last two years, the office of communication has collected 23 awards for, according to the announcement that accompanied the honors, “outstanding communication in a variety of categories including website, social media, video production and publications.”

Arlington’s first-place awards included a win for its recurring videos of residents sharing their successes and experiences and detailing their achievement of the American Dream.

Next is recognition for the continuing “On the Clock” programming describing work and services going on across the city that addresses the ways the city is responding to the needs of the people who live here.

As an indication of its popularity, that series currently has more than 24,000 views.

Presented as the best one-time programming is a summary of the biggest stories in Arlington from the previous year.

The Home Plate Update is a recurring look at “everything happening” with construction of the Rangers’ new home, Globe Life Field, and the Texas Live! development in the city’s thriving entertainment district.

A companion series of 90-second YouTube videos features the Rangers ballpark public address announcer, Chuck Morgan, provides updates on the $1.2 billion project.

Two other first-place awards recognized programing for the Budget in Action and the Via Rideshare program.

These reports help answer residents’ calls for more information about what’s going on in their town.

Those desires come against the backdrop of concerns in the Pew Research report about “fake news.”

It’s an issue of more concern to survey respondents than violent crime, climate change, racism, illegal immigration, terrorism or sexism.

Pew finds those surveyed blame “political leaders and activists far more than journalists for the creation of made-up news intended to mislead the public.”

But they believe it is primarily the responsibility of journalists to fix the problem. And they think the issue will get worse in the foreseeable future.

While what cities are doing at the local level won’t reach very far into misinformation about national policy and politicians, it is at least a start toward informing residents about how the work of local government affects their daily lives.

Citizens can more easily evaluate what cities are saying about the place where they live and decide for themselves if the information is authentic.

The personnel in cities’ communication offices are easily accessible, as are the city’s management officials and elected leaders. Their biggest mistake would be to produce anything that would lead to public distrust and cancel out their efforts.

Maybe there’s something to be learned from what cities are doing that could inform traditional news outlets about how to ensure that their journalists are, in fact, speaking truth to power, not making up the news and calling to account those who are.

Results from the Pew research tell us that is what we want and deserve — and if we don’t get it, we’ll continue to look elsewhere.

Richard Greene is a former Arlington mayor, served as an appointee of President George W. Bush as regional administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency and lectures at UT Arlington.
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