Alinea


What happens when feds, the media and advertisers have dinner?

I spent some time on vacation last week, but couldn’t escape the painful exegesis of the whole Washington Post salon series episode.

For those of you just returning to DC, the short version is the publisher of the Washington Post decided to host a series of dinners bringing together editors and reporters from the newsroom, policy makers from Capitol Hill, officials from the Obama administration for a series of off the record conversations. The first was going to be on health care, certainly a hot topic. Oh, and there would be an industry sponsor who would receive some kind of special access.

It was painful for a lot of reasons. First, it’s hard to believe that anyone who has been in this market for as long as the Post has would not know better or have better controls. The Post has spent many years pointing out the shortcomings of others, and there are many who are delighted to return the favor.

Painful, also, because I’m sure we are all going to pay for this mistake. The White House just this afternoon reminded all members of government of the rules for attending events sponsored by non-government entities. I am confident there will be more guidance and tighter rules.

I actually think we need more conversations and dinners between government and industry, not fewer. But that might be a hard sell for a while.

The last time I remember a similar controversy was the whole CISO Exchange issue. It also involved policy makers, government officials and industry executives who paid a fee to attend. Despite some very high level participants, the plan collapsed when the details of industry participation, which was characterized as pay-to-play came out.

To be fair, this is a variation of a model called the “hosted event,” which is common in industry. Gartner does a version of it, as does Marcus Evans. Companies pay a fee -- anywhere from $35,000 to $75,000 -- for a sponsorship and are guaranteed a certain number of interviews with the targeted audience. In this market, that doesn’t work because you may have a government executive sit down for a conversation with a company bidding on a contract in his/her agency.

IRMCO, ELC and our own Government Leadership Summit have multiple sponsors precisely to avoid the appearance of preferred access.

The Fishbowl DC Web site notes that in the wake of the Washington Post incident, David Bradley, owner of Atlantic Media, decided to send a memo to his employees defending the company’s practice of sponsored dinners. You can read that here.

So, while I think we need more openness, conversation and access, I’m guessing that we are going to find it difficult in the near future. Episodes like Salon-gate always lead to tightening of the rules and nervousness on the part of government folk who are concerned they could end up the target of an ambitious member of the House.

Full disclosure—Washington Technology does a dinner series, in which the editor and I lead a discussion with industry executives on topics of interest. There are no Hill or government people present, and it is designed to improve our coverage of the issues in the SI community.

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Posted by Anne Armstrong on Jul 10, 2009 at 7:20 PM0 comments


COOP: What's the drill?

So I heard from a reliable source last week that the U.S. government was doing a real time COOP exercise this past Wednesday. Classified threat. Real exercise.

But, of course, didn’t hear anything about it afterwards. So, did anyone hear how it went?

Posted by Anne Armstrong on Jun 23, 2009 at 7:20 PM2 comments


New thoughts invited: ACT-IAC's CXO dinner gets ideas flowing

I’ve been struggling with what to call this contribution since “Insider” has been so well used. There are at least three in our market.

John Monroe suggested Anagrams, which I considered. But hope I am not that hard to decipher. Decided to call the blog Alinea.

The foodies in the market will recognize that as the name of a restaurant in Chicago owned by chef Grant Achatz. But more to this point, alinea is the Latin term for the paragraph sign, sometimes called a pilcrow.

In Latin it means “off the line,” but a paragraph signals a new thought. It also echoes the idea of liner notes, which is in many ways what blogs do — commenting on the work being done by others. Anyway, insert new graph here.

ACT-IAC CXO dinner

Very interesting experiment in getting government and industry working together to bring new ideas to the table. Lots of folks have tried versions of this, including the early workshop days at the Executive Leadership Conference (ELC).

The task at hand was to look at the five pillars of transparent government being proposed by CTO Aneesh Chopra and CIO Vivek Kundra. Each table took one of the pillars and was asked to come up with a succinct definition, describe what success would look like, identify barriers to success and come up with three to five actions to accomplish the purpose.

It’s a lot harder than it sounds. In the limited time, scribes wrote down dozens of ideas. It will now be a harder task to pull that together into a coherent document. At least, there is still a need for editors in some endeavors.

Kim Taylor Thompson, CEO of Duke Corporate Education, facilitated the work. Teresa Carlson of Microsoft worked with Martha Dorris, out-going president of ACT to get this pulled together. There are several more planned.

Once the wisdom has been distilled, it will be passed on to Chopra and Kundra.

There are lots of ideas about how to improve on the first effort, but hats off to those involved for getting it off the ground.

Posted by Anne Armstrong on Jun 19, 2009 at 7:20 PM0 comments


Writing from the dark side

I used to write for a living. Then, 10 years ago, I took one of those Frostian forks in the road and I now manage for a living. Some people would say I sell. But in the eyes of many editorial people, I went over to the dark side. Speaking from the dark side, it doesn’t seem that different from what I did in editorial, but never mind.

I am every editor’s and art director’s worst nightmare because I think I have done that job and therefore I can comment on what he should have done or what were they thinking about that cover?

So, this is put up or shut up time. The edit folks asked me to do a blog. I think the idea is to make me get out from behind the comfortable curtain of criticizing without actually having to create anything.

I know that every reporter is only as good as his or her sources. Burn one and you are done in this town. Many of my sources have now sold their companies and retired to wonderful warm spots around the globe.

So if you have news, call me. Email me at aarmstrong@1105govinfo.com. I will be calling many old friends. Standby.

I welcome your suggestions and criticisms about what we are covering and what we are not.

I think this is a remarkable community that is not completely covered by pics at parties. I know networking is important, but there is a lot of substance that industry provides that is not currently seeing the light of day.

The toughest part is that whenever you write anything of value, someone is likely to disagree. I have to think if we are ready for transparency, we are ready for conversation.

Let the conversation begin.

Posted by Anne Armstrong on Jun 18, 2009 at 7:20 PM0 comments


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