Thursday, May 31, 2007

The now-not-so-public schedule

Posted By on 05.31.07 at 05:38 PM

For years the mayor's daily "public schedule" was available to the public--which seemed fitting enough. All you had to do was call 312-744-0052 and a recorded voice message gave you the list of events, places, and times where the mayor would be appearing that day.

This morning, however, I called the number and encountered a very different message: "This line is being checked for trouble."

A call to the mayor's press office established that there's no trouble at all--just a significant reduction in the mayor's public accessibility.

"We are no longer giving the mayor's schedule out," a mayoral spokeswoman told me. "We want to make sure that only certain people have that information."

So the mayor's public schedule is no longer available to the public.

"We've had some problems," the spokeswoman said. 

She wouldn't specify what kind of problems, or from whom.

"OK, you can give me your information," she said. "We'll see what we can do." 

She said the mayor's press office will now send e-mails with the daily schedule to news outlets that provide contact information. I passed on my name and e-mail address, but she said she wasn't sure that was good enough: I myself am not a news outlet. She might need to talk to my editor first.

She did transfer me to the voice-mail message I'd been looking for in the first place. The mayor would appear at three events this morning: a police academy graduation ceremony, a press event featuring the unveiling of a new police helicopter, and a scholarship fund-raiser. He would take questions from reporters after the last event.

A few minutes later I got a call back from the press office. They wanted to clarify: they would only provide the mayor's schedule to one person at each news organization. If they put me on the e-mail list, was there any guarantee that someone else from the Reader wouldn't call them seeking the same information? "We don't want to send it to multiple people," I was told.

In the most professional manner possible, I bitched. How hard is it to add another e-mail address to your press-release list? What's so problematic about making it simple to find out where we could catch up with our city's top elected official?  I belabored the point. 

I made the list.

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