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The other day, the local paper published (yet another) piece on the frequency of staff turnover in the federal public service.

I received an email today from a fellow public servant about this story. They have kindly allowed me to reproduce it:

Hi there, Not sure if you have already read this, but wanted to share this article with you from the Ottawa Citizen on March 31.

Article: http://www.ottawacitizen.com/focus+attention+turnover+within/1446275/story.html

Comment stream only: http://communities.canada.com/ottawacitizen/blogs/soundoff/archive/2009/03/31/282766.aspx

I went back today to send it to a colleague and re-read the comments which had more than doubled in number.   I found it particularly interesting how public servants are contributing to the dialogue happening outside of our walls. Not like a letter to the editor which may or may not be published. But rather, published instantaneously. This is one of the best examples I have seen of Canadian public servants participating in an outside dialogue as public servants and as individual citizens. Public servants no longer need to start a blog or ask permission from their departments to share their opinions, they seem to be doing so in responding directly to the media, however anonymously they are doing so.  

Food for thought: We sometimes think about how public servants should participate in social media – the limits of what they say that could be damaging to the business of government and we generally use the code of values and ethics.   Acknowledging that these public servants are contributing to a very important dialogue on this issue, if we are trying to renew public service and compete for the best and the brightest in the knowledge economy, we may eventually need to participate in the dialogue and share what is good about working in the federal public service through comment streams.

UK has civil participation guidelines (attached) and here: http://beta.civilservice.gov.uk/about/work/codes/participation-online.aspx. Not sure what their experience has been with news stories and their staff commenting.

This is a neat insight, as a lot of the angst around use of social media in government centers on the idea of blogging or tweeting bureaucrats. But now that most major news sites have added minimally moderated commenting, the bar has been lowered even further and there’s virtually no barrier to participation in high profile conversations online.

Need to think about this more, as I generally welcome increased online participation by my peers. However, in this case particularly, a quick perusal of the comment stream leaves me disappointed. There’s a lot of common stereotypes about the federal PS being reinforced. And some misguided generational angst thrown in for good measure. As is common on news sites, this story appears to be a magnet for folks with axes to grind.

(Not saying there’s not a problem with staff turnover — there clearly is. A 42%  annual churn rate is a bit crazy. More that the tone I’m seeing here is not exactly constructive. )

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Last August, I posted on the growth of the Internet as a key source for news, based on research being undertaken by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press in the United States.

This morning, I was pointed to updated research from Pew, released just before Xmas (hat tip eMarketer).

Pew Research Center for the People and the Press

Source: Pew Research Center for the People and the Press

This graph vividly demonstrates the dramatic growth of Internet news. That jump from ’07 to ’08 is really stunning.

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Well doesn’t that sound like a statement of the obvious.

Note to self: keep this in yer back pocket for responding to people who don’t believe that the Internet is an important source for news.

Pew Research Center

Source: Pew Research Center's Biennial News Consumption Survey

Lookit that – online news, at 37%, is running pretty much in the same league as the traditional sources, whether cable TV, radio or the paper. And the growth trend for online news consumption is quite stunning – the 2010 edition of this survey will be quite interesting I think.

I know, I know – These numbers are American. But my bet is that Canadian numbers would be similar.

There’s tons more gory detail in the full report.

(h/t iketches)

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