Marshall McLuhan, the famous media consultant, indeed the first media ecologist is noted for a famous saying:” The medium is the message.” Scholars have speculated ever since on what McLuhan meant when he said this probing quote. In my view I think McLuhan was saying that the message has to be couched in a way which will peak the readers interest. An example: a few years back my son and I were watching a program on television, a black and white television in the basement. After a while my son said he liked the program and wanted to go upstairs to the television upstairs and “watch it for real on the color TV.”
I recently attended Inter Neighborhood President’s Annual Dinner and it is always a treat to learn what creative leaders in our city are doing to meet the challenges of living in our City. I email lots of my newsletters electronically because it saves paper and money. The name of the newsletter is Accountability Update. The update lists information about important audit findings reported by our Internal Audit section. We included information on the first ever performance audit of IT controls for the city’s PeopleSoft program. The update highlighted the Economic Development Office contract with Seedco, a national economic development company. Based on our findings, the mayor and council decided not to renew that contract. We reported on the Peer Review conducted by the Association of Local Government Auditors. They gave their highest ratings to our office for best practices. The update informed about how our office is being recognized nationally for the reforms we have made and for the cutting edge performance on audits. The citizen gave no comment on the content of the Update only on the form of the message which gets us back to McLuhan.
At the INC dinner I handed out some printed copies of the Update. I have 1500 copies printed so I can hand the Update out at senior residences, community meetings and dinners like the INC last week. A citizen emailed me that the newsletter should have been printed in black and white to save money. Not a word of comment about the substance of what information was in the Update. I do hope the person eventually reads it. There will be a quiz on it when next I see her in the city.
I wrote the citizen back quoting McLuhan and reminding her that if I had printed the Update in black and white, a Xerox copy, no one would read it. People want a readable and inviting newsletter so they can read it. I promised people effective communication with the office. I want them to engage with the office and our work. So I will continue to put out the Accountability Update, so people in Denver can be informed of what our office is doing to change the culture of accountability and transparency at our city. Let’s read The Update for real with a little bit of color.