This story was originally published by CBC News in Ottawa, Canada
Did you hear the big news out of Ottawa?
The local eye doctor is opening a bowling alley in August.
“People are pretty pumped about it. The bowling leagues are already sold out,” said multimedia specialist Mat Simonson, 39, the man behind Ottawa’s official Twitter account.
Ottawa, Kan., that is, a city of about 13,000 in the heart of the American Midwest, where Simonson says the bowling alley counts as a “huge news story,” eclipsing even the recent arrival of an Arby’s.
Simonson, who was born in nearby Topeka and lives in Gardner, about 40 kilometres up the I-35 toward Kansas City, is a big fan of Ottawa. Kansas.
“It’s a smaller town that’s steadily growing,” he said, describing it as “a great place to raise a family and have a good time.”
There are parks and playgrounds, and the industrial park recently underwent an expansion. If you like sports, the Royals and the Chiefs are right up the highway, and if you like mountains — well you’re probably in the wrong place, but Simonson says it’s not quite the bald prairie you’re imagining, either.
“It’s not as flat as everyone says it is. There are hills in Kansas.”
He will admit that things are pretty quiet in Ottawa, news-wise. At a recent public meeting, the town council decided to keep a pit bull ban in place. Apart from that ... have we mentioned the bowling alley?
So when people began tagging the @ottawaksgov Twitter account over some decidedly big-city issues, Simonson took notice. He quickly realized the tweets were really meant for Ottawa, Ont., which recently reached a population of one million.
At first, he let it slide. It was their mistake, after all. But when the trickle of errant tweets became a regular trend — Simonson estimates one in every five tweets is actually intended for the Canadian capital — he decided to start gently letting people know they had the wrong Ottawa.
“We’ve done our best to try to correct it. That’s why I started using the hashtag #NotCanada,” he said.
He’s clearly having a bit of fun, too. “Friendly outreach,” Simonson calls it. “It’s a good way to show that, you know, we may be a government agency, but we like to have fun, too.”
Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the other Ottawa’s well-staffed media department. Simonson once tweeted that his city had been confused with the “small town” of Ottawa, Canada, and was swiftly corrected by his counterparts @ottawacity.
“They got kind of perturbed with me for that one,” Simonson laughed.
Most people appreciate the good-natured corrections, though, and Simonson says @ottawaksgov has even picked up some new followers from north of the border.
“I’ve been having a good time with it. I don’t want it to end,” Simonson said.
And whether he wanted to or not, Simonson is learning quite a bit about the major issues facing the other Ottawa.
“I know there’s some controversy with the Château [Laurier], and a New Age building possibly being built that does not fit in with the atmosphere of the current building,” said Simonson, who has even coined the term “ChatNo” to reflect his feelings about the proposed hotel addition.
But none of it has turned him off his fondness for Ottawa, Canada.
“It looks like a beautiful city. I’d love to visit sometime,” he said. “I’d say keep up the good tweets. I love responding, and I love hearing from you guys.”