A pair of city councillors are talking public discourse in a new podcast, which launched last week.
Arjun Singh and Kathy Sinclair are behind the new monthly show Kamloops Councillors Talk About Civility, which is available online via Soundcloud.
Singh said he values diverse opinions and wants to promote civility, with negativity removed from the debate.
He said he has had success in the past addressing the issue of negativity head on, reminding people there is a human on the other side of the computer or phone.
“The podcast is kind of one way, not the only way, of talking about those issues and talking about how it’s important, how effective, good collaborative dialogue can be,” Singh said.
Sinclair said she has noticed since she was elected public dialogue decreasing. She said social media triggers emotional responses and allows people to react quickly, often resulting in anger.
Thompson Rivers University journalism professor Charles Hays said Canada’s public discourse in 2019 stems from political divisions in the United States, which are increasingly mirrored north of the border.
He noted negative debate in the recent Alberta leadership race and said sunny ways touted by Justin Trudeau during the last federal election did not last.
It’s also a sign of the times and how technology has changed. Hays said that letters to the editor take time to consider, write and send before they are edited and published — or may not run at all — but today people can post anonymously and immediately.
Hays wished Kamloops councillors success with the new podcast, but questioned whether the message will reach its intended audience or add fuel to the fire.
Sinclair said the councillors are not trying to tell people how to behave, but rather offer pointers about how messages can be heard more effectively.
“It’s like any conversation,” Sinclair said.
“If you come at somebody yelling, your message may not be received.”
Asked what can be done to improve public discourse, Hays said it will be up to the willing to conduct themselves with civility inside their circles and hold to account those who do not.
“Everybody has a right to their opinion,” Hays said.
“We also don’t have a right to everybody else’s opinion.”
Listen to the first episode of Kamloops Councillors Talk About Civility on Soundcloud.
United Way Thompson Nicola Cariboo executive director Danalee Baker recently posted thoughts on civility:
• Assume the best. Don’t jump to conclusions; give the benefit of the doubt.
• Approach with curiosity. Remember David Covey’s habit “seek to understand, then to be understood.”
• Act in transparency.
• Communicate to integrate. If we want to live, play and work together, we need to keep talking to each other regularly.
• Respect what’s different. Everyone has something valuable to bring to the table, it just might not be what you were expecting.
Baker also recommended the book, Saving Civility.