Gov’s Office says centralizing info is to keep all departments ‘informed’
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — “I just want to make it clear that centralizing information from each department is to keep the Office of the Governor informed about the happenings in each department and that departments are encouraged to keep the media updated at their own discretion,” says Fiafia Sunia, the Communications Officer with the Governor’s Office.
Sunia’s explanation over the weekend, in response to media inquiries, followed a Mar. 30th memo from the Governor’s Chief of Staff, Tuimavave Tauapai Laupola informing cabinet members that the Communications division of the Governor’s Office — GOVNET COMMS — requests assistance in providing a Public Affairs Officer (PAO) for each respective agency.
He explained that he is tasking GOVNET COMMS to centralize all government news and information regarding upcoming and current events as they occur in respective offices of ASG agencies.
Tuimavave requested that directors assign a representative to serve as a PAO for their respective offices and have their names submitted for inclusion in the ASG Communications and Public Affairs Group (CPAG). (See Samoa News edition Apr. 7th for details.)
The memo had prompted some public criticism including from Samoa News management team — that such a move is the new Administration’s effort to control the flow of news and information from the government as well as preventing departments from talking to private news outlets.
At last Thursday’s cabinet meeting, Tuimavave explained that every Monday, he along with the Governor’s Office, updates the governor and lieutenant governor on developments in the government. And there are many great developments occurring in each agency and such information from departments is needed and therefore, a PAO is needed from each department to provide such information, he said.
“Centralizing does not mean all media responses and replies have to be coordinated through the Governor’s office,” said Sunia over the weekend. “In fact, departments are encouraged to keep the media updated when they can on the happenings of their respective departments.”
He explained that the primary goal of having a communications and public affairs group is so that the Office of the Governor is aware of what is happening within each department.
“Secondly, providing some future training opportunities in how to effectively push out their updates to the media and enhancing their own individual communications policies. Especially in the area of Technology and Communications,” said Sunia, who has been responsible for sending out communications from the Governor’s Office since the new Administration took office.
“We want to help departments stay with the evolution of communications to improve everything from web analytics, website, and managing their own communications workflow,” he said.
Regarding social media, “we want to be able to take full advantage of this platform, but we want to provide each public affairs officer with training on how to set up and record their own podcasts, live media streams, and enhance digital optimization,” he pointed out.
Sunia said he has identified a lineup of speakers from the National Governors Association and some other Federal partners, as well as regional groups who are standing by to take part in a lecture series on Communications and Public Affairs within the different levels of government.
And this will begin as soon as the PAO's from each department are identified, he said.
“I am excited that this group is being formed because I believe there are many opportunities for communications training and policy writing that can be used to help elevate our public affairs reporting,” he pointed out.
Last Thursday’s cabinet meeting was the first time the local media was invited, since the Lemanu Administration took office.
The Lolo Administration, during its 8-years in office, kept the channel of communication open with the news media, which was allowed to attend cabinet meetings and state-run KVZK-TV would also air it. At the time, directors were always responsive to media questions and also encouraged by former Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga, whose executive assistant, Iulogologo Joseph Pereira also took on the task of responding to various media questions.
[Editor’s Note: Samoa News management’s view is that any type of ‘managing’ of news that is to go out to the public is a dangerous precedent in terms of freedom of information, freedom of speech. While, teaching technologies and training in communications are admirable endeavors — we believe the temptation to ‘manage’ what goes out are “edge of the abyss” moments, with systemic biases in play. ra]