Media reporting was a big problem for Travel Penticton last year - InfoNews

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Media reporting was a big problem for Travel Penticton last year

A steadily disappearing Okanagan Lake beach is bolstered at access points with sandbags as of Tuesday afternoon, May 23, 2017. Travel Penticton told city council today, Feb. 28, 2019, countering local media reports about conditions in Penticton was a challenge in 2018.
March 01, 2019 - 7:30 AM

PENTICTON - Countering negative media coverage was one of Travel Penticton’s biggest challenges in 2018, representatives told Penticton City Councillors today.

Travel Penticton presented an overview of their operations to Penticton City Council today in the third and final day of budget discussions.

Organization representatives Barb Haynes and Cameron Smith discussed the destination marketing organization’s accomplishments last year and plans for this year prior to outlining its budget needs for 2019.

Haynes said it was probably “no surprise” the region had some issues with high water, drawing a distinction between terminology used by media and the travel agency’s own use of words.

“We opt out of language like ‘flooding,’ because it’s not flooding for us, it’s high water. There’s a big difference in how we communicate that to our potential guests coming into Penticton, so it’s really important that we use that language to keep encouraging people to want to come,” she said.

Those wishing to use Okanagan Lake beach two years ago, or living in the Sportsman’s Bowl area near Oliver last spring might possibly have a different point of view.

As far as the effects of the region’s wildfires were reported, Haynes said the July 2018 Summerland-Peachland fire (Eneas Mountain wildfire) that interrupted traffic on Highway 97 was "definitely a challenge" for the organization.

"Drifting smoke from external fires near Keremeos and other areas - feeding that constant media coverage again (and) using that language of ‘we’re flooding and we have wildfires.’ We had high water and smoke, we didn’t have flooding and we didn’t have wildfires right here. It’s a different perception, a different concept,” she said.

Haynes also took exception to the use of the term “B.C. State of Emergency.”

“If you’re from California, and you know we’ve now put out a B.C. State of Emergency, that language is much more disconcerting,” she said, adding it was a necessary term but use of it meant the travel agency had to "use language to counteract some of that.”

She said because the area had experienced two years of smoke, the organization was working to counteract some of the negative comment that was out there.

Coun. Jake Kimberley acknowledged the difficulty in counteracting negative media reports.

“Of course, they have to do their job, but even so it does bring a negative view of our community,” he said.

Mayor John Vassilaki said he heard from community and business members visitors seemed to understand the city was closed during the periods of flood and smoke.

“The media doesn’t portray us as being open and business continues, even better than before. Is there any way or anything you can do to make sure the public — the external public — understands that the city is open for business and we’re not closed because of the floods or the smoke?” he asked.

Haynes replied the organization’s real time campaign, where daily videos were posted to social media, was created to deal with that issue.

“It is a challenge. Media has a role to play, they have a job to do, unequivocally, however the impact on language, in particular that gets used and the impact on maybe sensationalizing things that just don’t need to be, can be a challenge,” she said.

FILE PHOTO - A view of the Okanagan Valley just south of Penticton on the weekend of Aug. 18-19, 2018, when smoke from near and distant fires choked the valley for several days.
FILE PHOTO - A view of the Okanagan Valley just south of Penticton on the weekend of Aug. 18-19, 2018, when smoke from near and distant fires choked the valley for several days.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Steve Arstad or call 250-488-3065 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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