Saturday, May 10, 2008

[dipnote] state department blog revisited

Sean McCormack - State Department spokesman

On October 9th, 2007, I ran a tongue in cheek piece on the State Department's latest venture, the Dipnote blog, with such classic pieces as:

The Europeans walk through the lobby of our home for the week, the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, in their grays and blacks. The Americans in their shiny lapel pins, power suits, and blackberries. The Africans in their colorful garbs and stylish headdresses.


The No. 1 improvement readers have suggested is to drop the blog's name: "The name DipNote has to go ... the blogosphere can be quite cruel sometimes ... you'll be referred to as Dip and another 4 letter word," writes SD in Washington.

The State Department responded with this in my comments section:

Granted, we're new at this, but just ask that you give the blog a chance. It's an open forum where you can actually discuss foreign policy issues with State Department officials and fellow bloggers. The question of the week this week is "What will life in Cuba be like after Castro?"

If you're willing to give Dipnote a chance, post a comment and see for yourself.

Well ... er ... fair enough, I mumbled at the time and posted an inconsequential follow-up. Now it's clearly time to revisit and see what's going on at Dipnote today. Sean McCormack states that the idea is:

With Dipnote we are going to take you behind the scenes at the State Department and bring you closer to the personalities of the Department. We are going to try and break through some of the jargon and talk about how we operate around the world.

And the title - Dipnote?

It looks like we broke our own rule and used State jargon in our blog title. "Dipnote" refers to a diplomatic note. It is one of the many ways in which governments formally communicate with each other.

The first thing which worries me is that many articles are written by "Dipnote Bloggers". The IDs are in the "About" section - Heath Kern, Tara Foley and Masharika Prejean - but how can one judge from whom a particular post is coming and how much veracity to ascribe to it?

To be fair though, the latest post on Colombia has a name to it - Charles S. Shapiro.

Their blogroll is also interesting and supports my contention about the influence of the CFR on American policy but that was a known known anyway.

Council on Foreign Relations

U.S. Diplomacy

American Diplomacy

Matel in Iraq

GWU Public Diplomacy Institute

... among others. Clearly the State Department has its own line on things and it would be churlish to question that - they are what they are and go in to bat for the State. Logical.

How much editorial independence the Dipnote Bloggers actually have, I wonder and I don't wonder cynically but openly.

There's a section with a photogallery of the Issue of the Day and that's a nice touch.

My own feeling about the blog is that it would be better with a light background, even white, to avoid connotations of Great Satan, that the authors should be more visible on the home page, as Sean McCormack is on his page, that the content is a little thin in places and they'd be better instigating some genuine discussion with a provocative quote or two.

They're getting nibbles but it would be nice to see some really heavy visiting. My own humble blog can pull in a few hundred readers - tops - but it needs the Malkins in the world and maybe the Dales in Britain to make themselves better known.

I wish them well, actually and will add them to my roll, for what that's worth - it's a venture and this little blog supports new ventures.

Good luck.


DipNote Bloggers said...

Thanks James. We're doing our best to incorporate suggestions like yours as we move forward with DipNote. Keep the suggestions coming. We're listening.

Lil Jimmy said...

12 hours and no comment by my fellow bloggers. There certainly seems some sort of resistance or maybe they did go over and check out your blog.

K said...


Nice review. I am a frequent visitor and sometimes poster at the dipnote blog. I think it's an exciting look at some of the things going on in the state department. Most of the articles are good reads, a few articles are just policy pushers. I would like to see more interaction by the department, though. If I just wanted to read a bunch of folks tossing their opinions around, I could turn to a hundred blogs around, but I'd prefer to hear more from diplomats and such.