Langley creates media policy

"A new policy penned by Langley city administration will place the city's media mouthpiece directly on Mayor Lloyd Furman's desk.Approved earlier this month, the policy, as worded, is directed specifically at the South Whidbey Record, requiring reporters and photographers from the paper to contact only the mayor or his media designee with any news-related inquiries. In the past, reporters had been able to speak directly to city employees and department heads without going through the mayor or a media contact person.Furman said Tuesday that the policy applies to all media, including regional outfits such as KIRO-TV and the Herald of Everett. While the policy states that it is intended to improve media relations while ensuring that accurate, appropriate information is released to news media, Furman said it will also protect the city in matters regarding personnel, litigation, and other business.We have to walk the line of the public's right to know and confidentiality, Furman said.Furman would not say on the record whether any specific media incident led to the creation of the policy. When the mayor is absent from the city, Langley's mayor pro-tem, Neil Colburn, may speak for the city. If the designated media contact cannot answer a particular inquiry, the policy allows for reporters to speak to city department heads or employees.City employees or department heads who speak to reporters without the mayor's or mayor pro-tem's permission could be disciplined under the city's personnel policy.Jim Larsen, editor of The Record, predicted the new policy will hamper the free flow of information in the city. Questions will continue to be asked of whatever city employee is likely to have the answers without first going through the mayor, Larsen added."

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