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PostPosted: January 14th, 2013, 7:24 am 
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Joined: June 20th, 2001, 7:00 pm
Posts: 7514
Location: Scarbados, Ontario Canada
When we want politicians' attention to issues that we think are important, we have to understand what is happening on their side of the fence.

Marineland had a debacle on their hand about their treatment of the animals and the public uproar reached the mayor's office, of course. The Toronto Star did an analysis of the email communications and we can learn a few things from that. Like, petitons that hover below 1,000 seems to have little impact, but tens of thousand make a difference. I assume that form letters fall in the same category. But emails pointing out biting truths with direct relevance to the addressee and sender stand out. It is interesting how the staff is hard at work to generate the "right" spin.... ... im-diodati

Marineland: Spinning the crisis with Niagara Falls Mayor Jim Diodati
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Liam Casey and Linda Diebel Staff Reporters


It’s a case study in political spinning — the good and the bad.

Last August, Niagara Falls, Ont., Mayor Jim Diodati scrambled to contain the damage after a Star exposé about the treatment of animals at Marineland, according to internal documents.

But within a few days he was bewildered and wondering why constituents were so furious at him. Everything he did seemed to go wrong.

The subject of one email read: “Everyone hates Marineland — but YOU!”

“It’s pretty disappointing how one-sided most of the emails and comments/arguments are . . . very unbalanced,” the mayor wrote his executive assistant.

The story exploded on social media, and Diodati’s BlackBerry didn’t stop buzzing for days.

The emails told him to read the Star. Eight whistleblowers had provided accounts that described a pattern of neglect that resulted in animal suffering. They said sporadically bad water and short staffing led to ill health, even death, of seals, sea lions, whales, dolphins and walruses at the tourist attraction.

Marineland owner John Holer denied there were problems. He said that “all our facilities are legal.”

The story, which included photos and a video, went viral.

The mayor’s early response, an interview with the hometown paper, blew up in his face, and his executive assistant, Sarah Conidi, warned about the political costs.

“You work tirelessly for a positive rep for our city and I know that these critics can be damaging,” wrote Conidi. “Seems this has opened a new door to animal advocates (who are) constituents.”

She reminded him the whole point of their strategy was to “keep (him) in a positive light.”

The backroom politicking is revealed in 300 pages of internal emails, obtained under freedom-of-information law.

The emails show Conidi and Diodati painstakingly crafting and re-crafting his message (“I am an animal lover myself”). Conidi essentially ran the operation. She vetted every message, even his Facebook page.

Meanwhile, Diodati spoke several times to Marineland’s Holer, and the park’s administrator, Tracy Stewart, copied press releases to the mayor’s office.

“I was just trying to get the truth,” Diodati says now of his conversations with Holer.

After the news broke, most of the emails to Diodati came from locals. But others were following the story, too.

“This is a public relations disaster for the entire city of Niagara Falls,” wrote a former Niagara Falls resident. “In the age of Internet, Twitter, Facebook, etc. it has become international news.

“Rest assured, everything your administration is doing (or not doing) is being quietly scrutinized.”

Many emails warned the coverage would affect tourism and lambasted Diodati for telling the Niagara Falls Review he’d been going to Marineland all his life and had “never seen any evidence of neglect.”

The documents show a chaotic several days for Diodati.

The story broke early on Wednesday, Aug. 15.

Early morning emails were similar, telling him about the story, providing a web link and urging him to watch the Star’s video. They were all over the map, demanding he do something — anything — about Marineland.

“Please act immediately,” wrote one person. “I just read an article about the Toronto Star investigation . . . into conditions at Marineland and was shocked.”

That morning, Conidi sent an email to city clerk Dean Iorfida asking him, “What would be the most suitable response?”

Iorfida said it was a “political decision.” He added that “animal welfare issues (are) best handled by experts — marine biologists and the like.”

Soon reporters were calling and Diodati spoke with the Review. The headline on the online story read: “Mayor Defends Marineland Amid Allegations.”

Diodati said a regulatory body checked out the park and “if they saw signs, “I’m sure they would have taken action.”

He was referring to the Canadian Association of Zoos and Aquariums (CAZA), a self-regulating industry body.

That’s when the backlash hit.

People were already emotionally charged over the story and immediately turned against Diodati, firing off angry emails from as far away as Sydney, Australia.

“How can you defend Marineland?” was typical.

By then, Conidi, a lawyer licensed in New York state but not Ontario, was trying to find a way to handle the growing crisis.

When asked if he was surprised by the vitriol of emails from the public, Diodati told the Star, “They misinterpreted my words. I was really trying to tell both sides of the story. I wasn’t taking sides.”

The next day, Aug. 16, the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals announced an investigation into Marineland. Public Safety Minister Madeleine Meilleur (who would later announce a provincial review of the OSPCA Act) said she had “been in tears” over the story.

(There are no government regulations for sea mammal captivity in Canada.)

At 5:47 p.m. that day, Conidi sent a message to the mayor entitled “Your Marineland response to the emails.”

It suggested he reply thusly: “I appreciate you taking the time to get in touch. I hear your frustration, but my comments in the media did not intend to defend Marineland in any way . . . “

It further proposed Diodati say he was trying to show “there are always two sides to every story,” that marine life falls outside city jurisdiction and that Marineland employs “a well-respected” veterinarian.

At 6:35 p.m., Diodati fired off the first email using that boilerplate response.

The reaction wasn’t good.

The following morning, Aug. 17, Conidi emailed the mayor to strategize again.

“The email response you (we) provided was posted on a complainant’s Facebook page and there were comments (it) was disappointing and avoided taking a stand — in light of this — are you still okay with the response?”

She told him she wanted him to look good and knew that critics could be “damaging.” She also said she’d noticed he’d deleted some Facebook comments.

Replied Diodati: “I only delete unfair, inaccurate or attack posts. I’m fine with opposing points of view and the debate it causes.”

That’s when he told her how disappointed he was with the overwhelmingly “one-sided” reaction. (The Star read 58 emails from the public, all but one criticizing Marineland and/or Diodati.)

The mayor suggested adding references to the OSPCA and CAZA (“they have never received complaints prior” about Marineland).”

He added: “Maybe (not too sure if we’re saying too much) if we add in that it’s much more expensive to care for a sick or dying animal than a healthy one — and that alone should be extra incentive for Marineland to have healthy and well-cared for animals . . . thoughts?”

Conidi replied: “Perhaps we should leave out anything related to animal health care, not being experts in that.” She agreed with adding references to CAZA and the OSPCA.

“I just want to ensure we are staying on top of this and that your name is not overly associated with the negativity of the accusations made against (Marineland) in the Star and other media outlets,” Conidi wrote. “As you and I discuss, ‘defend’ is not accurate.”

Diodati says he’s still angry with the Review’s headline.

Conidi quickly sent the updated version of the mayor’s response to staffers, including city clerk Iorfida.

This new effort contained a line to say Diodati had “a lot of respect for those who choose to speak up for the vulnerable and have admiration for their passion” and kept his vow of being a lifelong animal lover.

It debuted at 11:25 a.m. on Aug. 17 — but it didn’t help.

“Before you write ‘I am an animal lover’ one more time . . .” began one disgusted response.

Said another: “It seems as though you have been emailing multiple people the exact same message. . . .”

Meanwhile, Conidi updated her boss on an online petition already calling for regulations for aquariums. The petition, eventually delivered to Premier Dalton McGuinty with 78,000 signatures, then had 700 names.

Diodati noted: “Petitions are probably the least effective tools and carry very little weight.”

One person copied the mayor on a complaint to Marineland.

The park replied from its marketing department: “All animals at Marineland receive loving care from our trainers and our veterinary staff. They enjoy well-maintained facilities, high-quality diets and exemplary veterinary care.”

It was signed: “Marineland of Canada, Inc.”

The complainant wrote back: “Thank you for your response, Marineland. It’s hard to take such a response seriously when it comes from ‘marketing’ and without anyone’s actual name or contact info at the bottom of your reply. Terrible way to handle a communications crisis.”

Pressure continued to mount on Diodati.

“As a citizen of Niagara, I look to our politicians to take a stand when inappropriate things occur,” said one email.

Said another: “The eyes of the world will be on you and I hope you won’t let the animals and Canada down!”

There was no rest — even on the following Sunday night.

A couple emailed Diodati that evening to say whistleblowers in the Star exposé were all former Marineland staffers.

“You on the other hand are the mayor, when you visit the park you see what Marineland wants you to see and nothing more.

“You are to be fair and impartial, your personal opinions are irrelevant. You are to support all your constituents, not just the ones you agree with . . . ”;

“What is the good of having a nice house without a decent planet to put it on?” - Thoreau

PostPosted: January 14th, 2013, 9:55 pm 
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Joined: June 23rd, 2006, 4:25 pm
Posts: 3072
Location: Milton
Agreed Erhard!
That is why if everyone would write individually on the NWPA they would stop.
It is a sad point that Harper could say he did not bow to "special" interests, but listened to the will of the poeple,
Too bad the big eco kids have not got it yet either...
too busy worrying about their tax status.

Choosing to save a river is more often an act of passion than of careful calculation. You make the choice because the river has touched your life in an intimate and irreversible way, because you are unwilling to accept its loss. — (David Bolling, Ho

PostPosted: January 15th, 2013, 11:37 am 
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Joined: December 29th, 2002, 7:00 pm
Posts: 6196
Location: Bancroft, Ontario Canada
Enough attention drawn to Bill C-45 for ya, Jeff?




PostPosted: January 15th, 2013, 6:46 pm 
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Joined: June 23rd, 2006, 4:25 pm
Posts: 3072
Location: Milton

Choosing to save a river is more often an act of passion than of careful calculation. You make the choice because the river has touched your life in an intimate and irreversible way, because you are unwilling to accept its loss. — (David Bolling, Ho

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