Once upon a time, as part of my job in a bank’s marketing department, I was involved in helping produce an educational local television program called “Is Anybody Listening?” which was carried on a Boston channel and dealt with issues of interest to the general populace. One of the topics, I recall, was communication. Effective communication is still a major hurdle for many.

Every time I hear someone in town leadership talk about information being posted on the Web, I cringe. Where do these leaders get the idea that everyone has a computer and that all those computer owners read their news online?

To me, the Internet is but one source of news. It’s reported that more young people (under the age of 30) get news from the Internet, but if that media outlet is being used exclusively to distribute information, a lot of people are being missed. Only six percent of citizens 65 and older have routine access (or use) the Internet.

I recently spent nearly an hour on the Internet trying to find out more about this year’s high school graduation and which of our hometown graduates won scholarships. Just think, for 12 years these young people have been spending most of their time learning. Surely, scholarship and award winners deserve to be recognized. A good article about graduation appeared in our local paper, but when I accessed the school department’s Web site, and posted a query online for information about the graduating class, it was returned to me as undeliverable. There’s a lot lacking in effective communication. Maybe I just didn’t know the way to find out this information.

Call me paranoid, but for those of us who do not currently have children or grandchildren in school (and that is the majority of Windham’s population, believe it or not) we do not get the daily reports from the kids. We aren’t routinely attending games, plays, concerts and other presentations. But we (the majority) are paying our taxes to support the schools and we do want to know what’s going on. How do we find out?

Since less than 10 percent of those of us over 65 get our news from the Internet, it seems logical that we’d read a newspaper. Those quarterly update publications we receive in the mail from the school department cannot cover everything.

The “town side” of the community’s management also gives the impression they believe all of us who care about Windham are watching Town Council meetings and meetings of other committees shown on local cable television. This form of information is helpful, but it’s not a solution, especially for residents who may have other commitments on those meeting evenings. And the response I’ve heard to that is that meetings can be watched on the Web! Not if you’re part of the more than 50 percent without access to the Web!

Years ago when I was on a council-appointed Communication Committee, charged with improving communications (at no taxpayer cost) between leadership and citizens, we came up with a list of ways to accomplish this.

We did what we were asked. One of the suggestions was to produce a regular news column highlighting recent accomplishments or issues under discussion. Local newspapers could carry the column and copies would be available at the library and other public venues. If this had been initiated, it would be a simple matter to share the information via the Internet on the town Web site.

Sadly, the council at the time read our conclusions, reviewed the suggestions and filed the report, taking no action.

Rather than having opinion columns written by local gadflies being treated as news, it would behoove Windham’s leaders in both school and town to learn how to communicate with all citizens, not just those who may have Internet access. With decades in the communication business, I know there’s no sure way to reach everyone. But surely we can improve on what we are now doing. And all it would cost would be time – a good investment.

See you in a couple of weeks.


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