South Algonquin Township held their latest Economic Development Committee meeting on Jan. 20 and one of the items on the agenda was to have a more extensive discussion about Councillor Bongo Bongo’s proposal to enact a comprehensive social media engagement strategy for the township.
This strategy would include real time comments on the township’s YouTube channel, having the new economic development intern assume the lion’s share of the municipality’s social media duties, at some point in the future expanding into using Twitter and Instagram and using software like Hootsuite for a social media posting schedule to minimize the staff time and resources spent on this endeavor. After Bongo’s presentation and some questions and discussion on the issue, the committee decided to defer any further comments and decisions on the issue until they had time to fully reread and examine Bongo’s presentation.
Bongo brought up the prospect of the township adopting a more fulsome social media engagement strategy at the Jan. 13 council meeting in an official notice of motion. While there had been some discourse about it then, it had been deferred to this Economic Development committee meeting for a more extensive discussion.
“The idea for this social media engagement strategy arose from the wayfinding maps, and engaging with the public. We had a great meeting in May with council and the designers about the maps and then I approached the businesses. I realized at that moment that they should have been engaged with before that council meeting, in the springtime as opposed to the fall and wintertime,” he says.
Bongo went on to say that a more comprehensive township social media strategy would allow council to engage with the public so that discussions on issues happen more efficiently. If such a plan had been in place, they could have gotten public feedback sooner and come up with the map drafts more efficiently.
While he agrees that the incoming economic development intern should get the business retention plan going and also pursue several grants, he would also like to see that person spend up to 50 per cent of their time on social media and assume the role of the township’s social media manager.
“Like our other infrastructure, digital infrastructure is also an asset and we need to keep it up to date and fresh. Our YouTube channel for the council meetings is one of the better ones out there for municipal government. For me as a councillor, this is very exciting and I really want to build on this momentum and to continue to increase our engagement with the public,” he says.
Bongo says that the township has a new brand and they should make a statement on the internet. He says that he’s been a councillor for just over two years and the number one thing residents come to him about is having better communication with the township.
“We have a great Facebook page, but in 2021 residents are expecting even more social media interaction and posting,” he says.
He also emphasized that this new social media strategy was not about increasing views, or tourism or marketing. It was about transparency.
“I think a modern government like ours in 2021 needs to show their transparency by being active on social media. If residents see more social media posts courtesy of a social media manager, it will build more trust with the public,” he says.
Bongo put forth having real time comments allowed during the YouTube airing of the council meetings.
“I think it’s refreshing that constituents can watch on YouTube video and if any questions or comments pop into their mind they just can type it into the comment box,” he says.
Holly Hayes, the clerk and treasurer, piped in at that point and said that, to her knowledge, comments had always been allowed. If they hadn’t been at any given time, she did not know why.
“I did not restrict comments ever, for the record,” she says.
Bongo thanked her for clearing that up, and everyone was just glad that the ability to comment in real time was working again at the present time.
In addition to having the economic development intern being the social media manager, Bongo would also like to see that person sit in on council meetings, and come up with topics to post on social media. He would also like to see a posting schedule put into place.
In regard to people who worry about over posting, Bongo replied that it is increasingly important for municipalities to control their online social media narrative, a fact he learned from a lecture on that subject at the 2020 ROMA conference.
“People are going to be having conversations about local politics, positive or negative, whether we’re involved or not. In 2021, because we’re in this modern digital age, I think it’s really important for use to get involved and start conversations online because we want to make sure we’re getting the correct information out and we also want to have some influence over the tone. As a township, we want to set a respectful and constructive discussion tone on social media and one of the ways to do that is by a regular posting routine,” he says.
Bongo would like to see the township continue on with its Facebook page and YouTube channel, and if all continues to go well, add on Twitter and an Instagram page later on.
In response to other councillors and staff concerns that this social media strategy would take up too much staff time and resources, Bongo mentioned Hootsuite, which allows users to come up with a posting schedule and preplan items to be posted online to social media accounts automatically.
Bongo also referenced a 2012 municipal report from East Gwillimbury that brought up a lot of these ideas, and said he thought it was applicable to today and to South Algonquin Township.
“I think we should use social media to humanize our organization. As a councillor, I’ll be more confident making decisions when I have that interaction with the public, especially that the public can see these public conversations as well,” he says.
Mayor Jane Dumas thanked Bongo for a well thought out presentation, and asked him to send the full report to her and the other councillors for them to have a closer look before they commented any further on his presentation. Bongo agreed to do so, and said the full presentation would be up on his Facebook page as well.
In closing, Bongo conceded to the committee that what he was proposing was a bold idea, and at present their social media was pretty good.
“However, there are steps we can take to improve it even further, and to make it more of a 2021 style of social media. After all, it’s the COVID-19 era,” he says. “For us to be connected with our constituency, a dynamic social media strategy is paramount.”
Britney Spears calls recent documentaries about her ‘hypocritical’
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Pop singer Britney Spears spoke out on Tuesday about recent documentaries about her life and career, calling them “hypocritical” because they rehash her personal problems while criticizing the media for reporting them the first time.
Walt Disney Co’s FX network and The New York Times released “Framing Britney Spears” in February. The documentary examined the singer’s meteoric rise to fame as a teenager, the ensuing media scrutiny and her widely publicized breakdown.And this month, the BBC released “The Battle for Britney: Fans, Cash and a Conservatorship” in Britain. It will debut in the United States and Canada starting May 11 via the BBC Select streaming service.
In an Instagram post, Spears did not name either documentary but said “so many documentaries about me this year with other people’s takes on my life.”
“These documentaries are so hypocritical … they criticize the media and then do the same thing,” she added.
In March, Spears said she cried for two weeks after watching part of “Framing Britney Spears”.
The BBC said in a statement on Tuesday that its documentary “explores the complexities surrounding conservatorship with care and sensitivity.”
“It does not take sides and features a wide range of contributors,” the statement added.
A New York Times spokesperson declined to comment.
Spears, who shot to fame in 1998 with the hit “Baby One More Time,” is in a court battle seeking to replace her father as her conservator. He was appointed to the role in 2008 after she was hospitalized for psychiatric treatment.
Her fans have shown their support on social media under the hashtags #We’reSorryBritney and #FreeBritney. Spears is scheduled to speak to a Los Angeles court in June.
In her Instagram post, which included a video of herself dancing, Spears said that “although I’ve had some pretty tough times in my life … I’ve had waaaayyyy more amazing times in my life and unfortunately my friends … I think the world is more interested in the negative.”
(Reporting by Lisa Richwine; Editing by David Gregorio)
Grammy organizers change rules after allegations of corruption
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – The organizers of music’s Grammy Awards on Friday announced an end to the so-called “secret” committees that have led to allegations that the highest honors in the industry are open to rigging.
The Recording Academy said that nominations for the next Grammy Awards in January 2022 will be selected by all of its more than 11,000 voting members, instead of by committees of 15-30 industry experts whose names were not revealed.
The Academy was slammed last year when Canadian artist The Weeknd got zero Grammy nominations, even though his critically acclaimed album “After Hours” was one of the biggest sellers of 2020.
The Weeknd, in a Twitter post last November, said “The Grammys remain corrupt. You owe me, my fans and the industry transparency.”
The Recording Academy said in a statement on Friday that the changes were significant and were made “to ensure that the Grammy Awards rules and guidelines are transparent and equitable.”
Allegations that the Grammy nominations process is tainted were made in a legal complaint filed in early 2019 by the former chief executive of the Recording Academy, Deborah Dugan.
At the time, the Academy dismissed as “categorically false, misleading and wrong” Dugan’s claims that its members pushed artists they have relationships with. Dugan was later fired.
American pop star Halsey, also shut out of the 2021 Grammys, last year called the nominations process “elusive” and said she was “hoping for more transparency or reform.”
Former One Direction singer Zayn Malik called in March for an end to “secret committees.”
“I’m keeping the pressure on & fighting for transparency & inclusion. We need to make sure we are honoring and celebrating ‘creative excellence’ of ALL,” Malik tweeted hours ahead of the 2021 Grammy Awards ceremony.
The Recording Academy on Friday also said it was adding two new Grammy categories – for best global music performance, and best Latin urban music album – bringing to 86 the total number of Grammy Awards each year.
(Reporting by Jill Serjeant; Editing by David Gregorio)
Movie theaters face uncertain future
By Lisa Richwine
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Maryo Mogannam snuck into the Empire theater in San Francisco with his older cousins to watch “Animal House” when he was 14. He watched most of the James Bond movies at the historic art house and took his wife there on some of their first dates.
The cinema, which had been showing movies since the silent film era, served notice in February that it was permanently closing because of the impact of COVID-19. The marquee is now blank, and cardboard and paper cover the box office window.
“It’s kind of like losing a friend,” said Mogannam, now 57, who owns a retail shipping outlet near the theater, which had been renamed the CineArts at the Empire.
As vaccinated Americans emerge from their homes, they also may find their neighborhood theater is not there to greet them.
An eight-cinema chain in New England said it will not reopen. The same fate hit a Houston art house beloved by director Richard Linklater and, in a shock to Hollywood, more than 300 screens run by Los Angeles-based Pacific Theatres. That includes the Cinerama Dome, a landmark that hosted several red-carpet movie premieres.
Following a year of closures, theaters face deferred rent bills plus media companies’ focus on drawing customers to streaming services. Up to one-fourth of the roughly 40,000 screens in the United States could disappear in the next few years, Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter said.
The National Association of Theatre Owners rejects that estimate, spokesman Patrick Corcoran said, noting that similar dire warnings accompanying the advent of television and the switch to digital screens never came to pass.
Hollywood filmmakers want cinemas to thrive.
“It’s the only place where the art dominates,” said “Avatar” director James Cameron. “When you watch something on streaming, the other people in the room with you are welcome to interject, to pause to go to the bathroom, to text.”
At theaters, “we literally make a pact with ourselves to go and spend two to three hours in a focused enjoyment of the art.”
“For 300 people to laugh and cry at the same time, strangers, not just your family in your house, that’s a very powerful thing,” said Chloe Zhao, Oscar-nominated director of best picture nominee “Nomadland.”
At the Academy Awards on Sunday, the movie industry will “make a case for why cinema matters,” producer Stacey Sher said. While acknowledging the hardship of the pandemic, “we also have to fight for cinema and our love of it and the way it has gotten us through things,” she said.
About 58% of theaters have reopened in the United States and Canada, most restricted to 50% capacity or less. The biggest operators – AMC, Cinemark and Cineworld – make up roughly half the overall market.
Industry leaders project optimism, forecasting a big rebound after restrictions ease and studios unleash new blockbusters.
Coming attractions include a new Bond adventure, the ninth “Fast & Furious” film, a “Top Gun” sequel and several Marvel superhero movies.
“Avatar 2,” Cameron’s follow-up to the highest-grossing film of all time, is set to debut in December 2022. Some box office analysts predict 2022 ticket sales will hit a record.
Supporters point to late March release “Godzilla vs. Kong,” which brought in roughly $48.5 million at U.S. and Canadian box offices over its first five days, even though audiences could stream it on HBO Max.
“That was a big win for the entire industry,” said Rich Daughtridge, president and chief executive of Warehouse Cinemas in Frederick, Maryland.
But near- and long-term challenges loom, particularly for smaller cinemas.
Theaters are negotiating with landlords over back rent. A federal aid program was delayed due to technical problems.
Plus, media companies are bringing movies to homes sooner. Executives say streaming is their priority, pouring billions into programming made to watch in living rooms as they compete with Netflix Inc.
Most at risk are theaters with one or two screens, Wedbush Securities’ Pachter said. He said his best guess is between 5,000 and 10,000 screens could go permanently dark in coming years.
“I think we’ll see a gradual decline in the number of screens,” Pachter said, “just like we’ve seen a gradual decline in the number of mom-and-pop grocery stores and bookstores.”
(Reporting by Lisa Richwine; Additional reporting by Rollo Ross in Los Angeles, Alicia Powell in New York and Nathan Frandino in San Francisco; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)
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