I came across this Associated Press article (hosted by Google? I didn’t realize they were doing that nowadays), “Two Cabinet Secretaries Start Blogs.” The secretaries in question here are Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt and Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff. The story says that there’s a State Department blog too, but they don’t have a link to that one.
Leavitt’s blog seems a little more real to me than Chertoff’s:
“I’ve decided to wade in a little deeper into blogdom by writing one for the next month or so,” Leavitt wrote in his first entry. “I’m going to see how I feel after that time period. I may continue; I may not.”
Leavitt says he writes every blog entry himself, often late at night in hotel rooms when he is traveling. He is concerned that his entries are too long; on Aug. 20, he wrote 2,444 words about his trip to an orphanage in South Africa.
Chertoff began blogging in September so he could “open a dialogue with the American people about our nation’s security.” Chertoff comes up with an idea for a blog entry, then someone in the department writes it, and Chertoff heavily edits it, said Jeff Ostermayer, a department spokesman who oversees the blog.
The article also quotes Michael X. Delli Carpini, dean of the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania, who is pretty critical of these sorts of blogs:
Public officials usually are promoting policies and not offering honest reflections of what is going on, Delli Carpini said. The key to a successful blog is to make sure the information in the blog is honest, accurate and serving a public purpose. “The very same technology that can make things more democratic can also be used for manipulation and propaganda,” he said.
I see Caprini’s point, but I’m not entirely sure to what extent the typical, “garden variety” blog is “honest, accurate, and serving a public purpose.” I mean, many blogs are written under a pseudonym, and I would argue (at least I think I am arguing in BAWS) that bloggers shape their identities through their words, what they choose to discuss and not discuss, in response to an audience, and to meet their own needs as a writer. That’s not the same as what Carpini is talking about.
A lot of blogs– including these two– are popping up nowadays that are more or less PR pieces. It seems to me that the extent to which this is a “problem” has a lot to do with one’s definition of a blog. But I don’t have too much time to get into that this morning….
Incidentally, I spent about 5 minutes skimming through these two blogs, and I would say that Leavitt’s seems a lot more “real” than Chertoff’s, though Chertoff’s isn’t really just his blog, either.