Government moves to streamline, structure relationship with media

~ To establish press secretariat ~

In an effort to streamline, structure and professionalize the relationship with the media of St. Maarten, the Council of Ministers of St. Maarten have decided to work through an in-house Press Secretariat that reports to the Prime Minister, with integral support from the Department of Communications. The move will give government a communication facet long in existence throughout the region and the world.
The government of St. Maarten would be one of the last in Caribbean to establish a professional Press Secretariat. Several neighboring islands including St. Lucia, St. Kitts, Nevis, St. Vincent, Dominica, Trinidad and the Bahamas have had Press Secretariats in some form or fashion for decades. The position in the Netherlands is also common-place with Press/Info Officers in place for Parliamentary factions and/or individual MP’s and Ministers. In the US the Press Secretary Office is located inside the White House and is the first contact point for media inquiries to the President. Likewise, every Senator and Congressman has their own Press Secretaries.
Through the Press Secretariat on St. Maarten, the media will have more of an open door to the individual Ministers. It gives the general media the opportunity to reach out with their inquiries and, subject permitting, receive replies in a timely manner. The secretariat can also arrange interviews with Ministers and representatives of media houses. Ministers by nature of their schedules are not always reachable in time for media deadlines and seldom have the time to respond to emails from the media in a timely fashion.
Moreover, the volume of work and country priorities that the Gumbs Cabinet has to focus on in 2015 and beyond, made the establishing of a Press Secretariat a necessity in order to maintain open communication with the media. The weekly Council of Ministers Press Briefings will also be amended and at present will not be hosted by DCOMM on a weekly basis, rather on notification by the Prime Minister. Individual Ministers most naturally can host press avails/conferences to address particular issues when necessary.
In the absence of these weekly press briefings, the media can still send any inquiries/questions to the Press Secretariat who will then confer with the relevant Minister. Additionally, the Press
Secretary can host press briefings to relay information from the Ministers to the media when this is necessary.
The Press Secretariat has identified cooperation as the key element that will shape its routines, organization, and responsibilities. Cooperation will characterize the relationship between reporters and the Secretariat and is based on the need each side has for the other. It is a relationship that will be built on tacit understandings of what each side needs in order to accomplish its goals.
Besides being a conduit of information, the Secretariat will support DCOMM with the Prime Minister’s plans to bring the people closer to the process via production of informative programs using new approaches and technologies developed by DCOMM. A well-structured social media presence will also be put in place. DCOMM will maintain its role as the main distributor of general government information while the Press Secretariat will handle direct inquiries from the media to the Ministers and from the Ministers to the media.
It is not a new department that requires additional resources. The Press Secretariat will be led by the Press Secretary of the Prime Minister and veteran Journalist Michael Granger and established Communication and Social Media specialist Alston Lourens who functions out of the Ministry of Education.