BASSETERRE, St. Kitts – Presently, the press has been notified of events to be held in specific constituencies throughout the Federation. This article is not intended to comment or touch upon the narrative, attendance, or outcomes of these meetings. This author merely wishes to clarify the types of political meetings that are associated with democratic society.
What is the definition of a town hall meeting?
The concept of town hall meetings date back to the days of the settlers in New England. As early as the 17th century, government officials have held these meetings for the purpose of discussing issues related to budgets and laws related to the community. The meetings were often held in the local town hall.
Although the phrase is still in use, town hall meetings are no longer limited to being held in an official government building. Many modern town halls are held in locations that are accessible to the public and can accommodate large crowds. Candidates for political office hold town hall meetings to get feedback from voters. Current government officials may also hold them to discuss upcoming legislation that is or will be up for voting.
The intention of a town hall meeting is to establish a two-way conversation, free of bias and/or pre-text that would otherwise temper or set an environment that restricts the free-flow of dialogue and exchange. Town hall meetings often begin with an introduction or theme, where all participants are formally recognised prior to opening up the floor. What follows is a balanced exchange where time is shared and balanced between government and attendees. Questions and responses are allowed to drive the narrative, enabling government officials to hear from the town hall attendees, candid response free from impassioned pretext, and or lengthy unilateral government speech.
The takeaway for government officials is to take back feedback that is representative of the town’s will and prevailing issues.
Format: Informal community space
Audience: Representative of constituency (political party affinities are balanced among attendees)
Purpose: Mutual and candid exchange surrounding performance and issues impacting constituency.
Desired Outcome: Government officials hearing and receiving input that informs and elevates governance.
A news or press conference
A news conference or press conference is a media event in which newsmakers invite journalists to hear them speak and, most often, ask questions. A joint press conference instead is held between two or more talking sides.
In a news conference, one or more speakers may make a statement, which may be followed by questions from reporters. Sometimes only questioning occurs; sometimes there is a statement with no questions permitted.
A media event at which no statements are made, and no questions allowed, is called a photo op. A government may wish to open their proceedings for the media to witness events, such as the passing of a piece of legislation from the government in parliament to the senate, via a media availability.
Television stations and networks especially value news conferences: because today's TV news programs air for hours at a time, or even continuously, assignment editors have a steady appetite for ever-larger quantities of footage.[clarification needed]
A news conference is often announced by sending an advisory or news release to assignment editors, preferably well in advance. Sometimes they are held spontaneously when several reporters gather around a newsmaker.
News conferences can be held just about anywhere, in settings as formal as the White House room set aside for the purpose to as informal as the street in front of a crime scene. Hotel conference rooms and courthouses are often used for news conferences.
Format: Formal in delivery and setup
Audience: Members of the press and stakeholders
Purpose: To disseminate vital news and information to the populace
Desired Outcome: Press syndication
Definition of Political Rally
A "political rally" is a gathering at which people of similar political beliefs listen to speakers or musicians. Political rallies are often high energy events that are used to raise morale and support.
For instance - historically within the Federation PAM, Unity, and Labour candidates competing during the silly season "rally". Since there are a finite number of votes, where elections are won or lost based on a single vote, impassioned speeches during these events raise support and awareness for active candidates.
In addition, musicians with ties to a specific party often play at these events.
This is a "political rally" - mostly everyone in attendance supports ‘a party’ within the Federation in one way or another, and the speakers/musicians are also often staunch supporters of the party.
Format: Open venue allowing for high-energy activities
Audience: Supporters of a specific political party
Purpose: Energise a base of supporters
Desired Outcome: Increased loyalty and commitment
A town hall meeting is characterised by a balanced exchange between government officials and attendees, free from an environment that might otherwise restrict or repress candor and open dialogue helpful for politicians to use in their governance.
News or press conferences are can be unilateral or bilateral communication events that convey important news related to governance.
A rally is characterised by high energy speeches intended to raise support and moral to a base of voter support.