Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Footnoted

I awoke this morning to find this in my email queue:
Dear Foreign Service Blogger:

On behalf of the State Department Recruitment Team, I wanted to thank you for allowing us to feature your blog on careers.state.gov.  We believe your writings help those interested in a State Department career gain a better understanding of the realities of Foreign Service life, from the thrill of A-100 Flag day to the agony of pack-out.

Due to limited space on the Forums page of our careers site and to broaden the list of blogs available, we will now offer a link directly from our Forums page to the American Foreign Service Association (AFSA) webpage for Foreign Service-related blogs.  Through the AFSA website, you may continue to share your rich experiences with those interested in State Department careers.  If your blog is not already included in the AFSA Foreign Service Blog List, please contact Shawn Dorman at AFSA at Dorman@afsa.org.   

Again, thank you for your interest in improving understanding of the Foreign Service. 

Best regards,

Terry  

Terry R. Davidson
Diplomat in Residence Coordinator 
Recruitment Outreach Branch Chief
This move is pretty clearly State's reaction to Nipplegate, when a pruning of State's official blogroll earlier this summer ruffled some feathers and wound up in the Washington Post. Oops. The course of action The Powers That Be chose in response is clean and simple: to avoid the possibility of any similar events in the future, simply abolish the blogroll altogether, leaving the curation and promotion of the FS blogosphere to AFSA instead. Problem solved.

I completely understand where this decision came from. One of the first things they tell you in A-100 is to think to yourself before any new undertaking, public or private, professional or personal, "how would this look in the Washington Post?" If the answer is "not so great," DON'T DO IT. So if the goal here is to avoid future critical blogroll-related attention in the Post, this approach is perfect. On the other hand, if the goal is to help people who are interested in the Foreign Service find out what FS life is like, trading in the prominent official blogroll for an inconspicuous link all the way down at the bottom of the page (keep scrolling) is probably not the best way to go.

Maybe it is for the best that State is no longer in a position to play favorites (or to appear to be doing so) among the dozens and dozens of FS blogs out there. However, I think it's sad that the overall effect is to diminish bloggers' impact as resource for potential hires in favor of a set of moderated forums which I'd describe, if you'll permit me to steal a criticism from Charlotte Brontë, as "a carefully fenced, highly cultivated garden, with neat borders and delicate flowers, but...no open country." We, the bloggers, are still here of course, still doing our thing, and those future FSOs with the determination to look outside official channels or the luck to scroll all the way down can still find us and come take a walk on the wild side. I just think it's a shame to make them work for it.

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