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Convey the Message: How Social Media Helps Us Serve you Better

2009 December 3

On January 7, 1994, as I was about to leave for another semester at Loyola University in New Orleans, there was an oil spill in San Juan Bay. An oil tanker leaked 750,000 gallons of fuel in the Atlantic coastal area. I read the news two days later in my first class on News Editing. That was the first time I used the Internet in a classroom. My professor, a seasoned journalist and a great mentor, asked me, “Aren’t you from San Juan?” We read the story on a California newspaper Web site. Countless pictures from the disaster spoke for themselves. EPA personnel from Caribbean Environmental Protection Division were on the scene responding to the disaster.

A few weeks ago, when the CAPECO oil tank farm in Bayamon burst into flames, less than a mile from home, I went straight to the Internet for information. While most local news sites only had a few sentences on the incident, some of my friends had already posted their amateur videos of the fire on Facebook. As a public affairs specialist, I can tell you that we’ve come a long way from just using traditional media tools. Nowadays messaging happens in realtime. The Internet and social media have added a new dimension to the field of communications.

The blog you are reading is part of this new dimension. When I was asked to write for Greenversations, I was a little hesitant. With training from EPA’s Office of Public Affairs, I got it nailed. Since blogs are statements from a personal perspective, they are a great tool to quickly strike a resonating chord with the reader.

Recently I read a speech on social media given by GSA’s Chief Information Officer. In it she emphasized how government is changing the way it interacts with citizens through blogging. I also read an article on crisis communications which discussed how blogging shapes our response to a crisis. It provides timely information from a human perspective. A human voice can help connect with the public’s emotional response during a crisis. I invite you to read Greenversations or Gov Gab at USA.gov and GobiernoUSA.gov It is one way to stay connected with the people we work for: the general public.

About the author: Brenda Reyes Tomassini joined EPA in 2002. She is a public affairs specialist in the SanJuan, Puerto Rico office and also handles community relations for the Caribbean Environmental Protection Division.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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5 Responses leave one →
  1. armansyahardanis permalink
    December 3, 2009

    Here, Phone-Cellular (PC) is also new dimension of social media. Most of the people have it. Perhaps, here, PC are revolutioning and changing them within their lives. I asked to myself that this phenomena : Aren’t they used it right or wrong ? Ethics or not ? My answer : Most of them, especially young generation, are wasteful and immoral ……

  2. Michael E. Bailey permalink
    December 3, 2009

    The internet and the various social media that comes with it and that it itself is a part of are the greatest things to happen in support of democracy since the 18th century. The future of democracy is assured because now there is no chance for a dictator to close all the organs of public thought and information. One of the first things Hitler did when he came to power was to shut down the newspapers. The only news there was after that came from officially sanctioned party organs that took their direction from the Propaganda Ministry. In Russia, it was the same, in Itally, the same in Japan, the same. In Italy and Germany dictators came to power and stayed largely becaue they controlled the newspapers; the same in Japan which had a military government dictatorship. The only thing that got these dictators to leave was the Allies winning WWII. What could be done fairly easily in the 1930s cannot be done today because of the internet. Best wishes, Michael E. Bailey.

  3. extendedproducerresponsibility permalink
    December 3, 2009

    The younger generation is more open to the problems of others and to protecting the world than the older generation is. Morality is based on how you treat all others, not how to punish or harm those who have different beliefs. If the younger generation is wasteful and immoral, it is a continuance from the current generations’s selfishness and greed: Hummers, “drill baby drill,” “global climate change is a myth”, 50 million with no health insurance, failed banks giving billions in bonuses, waging war based on lies, killing others who don’t agree with us, forgiving the fines to Exxon for the Valdez disaster. The previous generation got us through the cold war with no nuclear explosions; the current generation is destroying the world environmentally, pollutant by pollutant. The new openness and expectations from the the young generation and EPA is refreshing after many years of not allowing people to speak out and not allowing EPA to enforce the laws. If the public knew what greedy companies are doing (such as forgiveness of the unpaid Valdez fine years after the event), there would be an outcry. Perhaps the new openness will bring the support of enforcement of the law and new, greater expectations of and support for EPA.

    I was in college when EPA was created; since then I have worked with companies to be in compliance with EPA regulations. Over the years, I have found that “good companies” concentrate efforts on following the law; “bad companies” concentrate on complaining about EPA to justify getting around the laws.

  4. Al Bannet permalink
    December 4, 2009

    The question is: Will public input from citizens have any influence on the thinking and policies of EPA staff and management? Throughout history bueaucracies have ignored voices from among the people because of political and economic agendas dictated by the party in power. But this time the fate of our entire civilization is in danger from our own great success, too much of our good thing turning bad. So, will it be “business as usual”, or is genuine reform possible in time to prevent the impending toxic collapse from the growing thousands of tons of sewage and garbage our growing population produces every day?

  5. Al Bannet permalink
    December 7, 2009

    I agree, the Internet is vital to democracy, but China, Iran, North Korea and Cuba restrict access by their citizens, obviously because they are afraid of a free exchange of information and ideas. But the fact that we billions KNOW this is a great triumph and insures a future of devolving democracy around the World.

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