The Department of State’s DipNote, a function of the Public Affairs section of Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Karen Hughes, isn’t half bad and has quickly found a rhythm. However, and this really isn’t a knock on the blog, it isn’t more than half good either. This limit is a function of the beast. Over a coffee earlier this year, a blog master of one of the many blog projects of a certain K Street think tank noted the bureaucracy lurking behind each post that would probably resonate with DipNote’s blog master. So, in truth, I’m actually impressed with what DipNote is putting out. To be sure, Foreign Policy’s Passport Blog found the DipNote bureaucracy to be agile enough.
Interestingly, Foreign Policy’s post regarding the public affairs-oriented DipNote to the public diplomacy orientated bloggers of Karen Hughes.
At the end of the day, public diplomacy of this sort can only do so much; it’s the policies that have to change before Arabs will embrace the United States. (Just as the State Department has a lot of work to do before most pundits will pronounce it a healthy institution.) But there’s nothing wrong with open dialogue. In that spirit, I hope that Dipnote embraces its comment section as an asset and, as Mark Leon Goldberg stresses, gets engaged with other bloggers instead of just regurgitating press releases and standard talking points. We all understand the need to stay on message, but nobody wants to read a blog full of the usual boilerplate.
Sounds to me like what Goldberg, and Foreign Policy, want is something a lot like what DOD is doing with their Blogger Outreach. It was suggested to the guy running the Blogger Outreach to model his program after State’s reach-out-and-tell operation. Instead, he decided to put the bloggers directly in touch with the commanding officers and ask their own questions, a format that more often than not brings out surprising revelations. Regardless, as with other aspects of public diplomacy and bilateral discourse, State should look at Defense’s lead. But I digress.
As with any new venture, there is a learning curve and growing pains. I’m happy to see DipNote moving along and providing something more interesting that sterile text on its blog. I’m also curious to see the course DipNote navigates. Stay tuned.