In The Edublogging Business Do Loose Lips Sink Or Raise Ships?

Over at This Week Russo raises the question of when/what to post that you glean from various conversations, in particular with the media. It’s worth reading because it raises some complicated questions about the medium.

For Eduwonk’s money though the answer is pretty straightforward and different than Russo’s. He says: “Everything’s on the record unless you tell me otherwise.” Here the policy is exactly the opposite: It’s off-the-record unless we agree otherwise. I’m not a journalist and this is a blog, not some sort of streaming real-time dissemination tool about what’s happening in the ed policy world with an obligation to relay everything that comes across the author’s desk. Consequently, I choose whether or not something rises to the level of reader interest and/or appropriateness to post it here. Put more plainly, there are plenty of things I am aware of that never make it into this blog for various reasons. While that’s not so different than how professional journalists operate, there are still some differences.

First, in order to function effectively as a professional people have to be confident that emails, phone calls, and conversations with me are strictly off-the-blog-record and that I’d never repeat or relay something without express permission. I could, for instance, discuss plans and initiatives that various organizations are launching but that would break confidences and I’m not prepared to do that. Of course, if I pick things up through the rumor mill that’s a different kettle of fish, but if a colleague asks me to review something for their organization or to bounce some ideas around then don’t expect to learn about it on this site until it’s made public.

In addition to other policy types, I talk daily with folks from the media, both reporters and editorial types. They have to be confident that I’m not going to swipe their ideas or preview their stories. I’d probably get a lot of new readers if I telegraphed a big news story that was coming in some outlet but it would be an enormous breach of faith if the reporter had contacted me about it and I then used that information public in advance of the story running. In fact, perhaps I even take this too far. For instance I waited to post about the AFT’s new blog until after Michelle Davis’ story in Ed Week had run since she called me for it and my post would reflect the same things I told her. But, I’d rather err on the side of caution.

I also review proposals and manuscripts for foundations and publishers so often I’ll know that something might be coming on a particular question but again, I can’t post that. Finally, I work with public officials and serve on a public body myself, and those folks, too, have to be able to trust that things they say will be treated with discretion. I work in the policy world, that’s what pays the bills, and the ability to work candidly and sometimes confidentially with people is key to being able to operate in that world.

On the other hand, what readers get here is a very high degree of transparency. They can be confident that if I’m writing about an organization I’ve consulted for, or serve on the board of, or that gives grants to support/or has supported my work, paid me to speak or consult, or generally where there is a real or perceived conflict of interest etc…I’ll point that out. So, while an item might not include every tidbit, readers can be confident I’m not, for instance, touting someone’s reforms or ideas while doing work for them without sharing it with readers.

The great thing about blogging is that it’s a highly democratic and market-oriented medium. If someone else wants to sail closer to the wind and, for instance, out upcoming stories in newspapers and magazines then that’s their business (and of course media outlets are always competing to be first on a story anyway so that pressure is already present to some extent in the public debate about these issues). How that would be received and what the impact would be on the writer’s ability to get such information in the future is an open question. Drudge is one example of something like that but my guess is that nothing in the eduworld would likely rise to that level and be able to survive while behaving like that.

Nonetheless I’m confident that readers of this blog know that they’re getting one take on things that is necessarily run through a few filters. And, readership is sustained and enthusiastic enough that I think this model works well and adds some value. And, there are different kinds of blogs out there so you’re going to get a little of everything and I suspect the issues I raise above are more localized to niche policy sorts of blogs though every blog makes editorial decisions of some sort or another.

I still hold out hope that Education Week will start a more “expose” oriented blog if they’re willing to take the heat. Journalists like the folks they have there can operate with a different set of rules and it might bring more stuff out into the open. In the meantime, as Don Rumsfeld might say, you’ve got to take the edublog you have not the edublog you might want!

3 Replies to “In The Edublogging Business Do Loose Lips Sink Or Raise Ships?”

  1. Interested in seeing a new and wildly unique teacher’s blog? One that’s deeply thoughtful and downright funny? Then enjoy A Dixie Diary, at The response from readers all over America has been astonishing.

    Actually published a few days ago during the midst of the Munroe business, this unique teacher’s journal shows a different look at what happens in the schoolhouse by a rookie teacher who loves his work and his students, but he expresses his thoughts and observations in a hugely different way than Mrs. Munroe.

    Sure, there are some intense moments, even some choice words, too, but mostly it’s world-class hilarious, heartwarming … like reading a good book. It’s the teacher’s blog we’ve been waiting for. It’s simply mesmerizing.

  2. I thought that your readers and colleagues might be interested in this as a unique idea combining education, work and America. We would be happy to provide you with a blog. Or please help us promote this initiative to read through a story/tweet/blog and send me a link should you use it. Also, email me or call Jennifer below if we can help you in any other way and thanks! – Mike Volpe/DOL

    Contact Name: Jennifer Marion
    Phone Number: (202) 693-5795
    Release Number: 13-2241-NAT
    From Ben Franklin to Betty Friedan, from “Of Mice and Men” to “The Devil Wears Prada,” U.S. Department of Labor launches Books that Shaped Work in America
    Centennial project invites public to compile list of books about work, workers
    and workplaces and learn about department’s mission and history

    Visit the Books that Shaped Work website

    WASHINGTON — From Ben Franklin’s “Poor Richard’s Improved” to Sonia Sotomayor’s “My Beloved World,” nearly 100 titles of fiction, nonfiction, plays and poetry begin the initial roll of Books that Shaped Work in America—a Centennial project of the U.S. Department of Labor in partnership with the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress.
    The web-based project,, launched today as part of the department’s ongoing commemoration of its 100th anniversary, aims to engage the public about the Labor Department’s mission and America’s history as a nation of workers as portrayed through published works.
    “The Books that Shaped Work in America initiative explores the dignity of work and our progress in expanding America’s fundamental promise of opportunity for all through the lens of literature,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez. “Think of this effort as an online book club where people from all walks of life can share books that informed them about occupations and careers, molded their views about work and helped elevate the discourse about work, workers and workplaces. At the same time, the site provides a unique way for people to learn about the mission and resources of the U.S. Department of Labor.”
    Work, like our nation, is constantly evolving, and so Books that Shaped Work in America is no different. To get it started, 24 individuals, including Perez, eight former secretaries of labor from both Democratic and Republican administrations, department staff (including an intern), civil rights leaders, critics, authors, media personalities and staff from the Library of Congress submitted suggestions. Among the contributors: former Secretaries of Labor George P. Shultz and Robert Reich, authors Daniel H. Pink and Joan Acocella, Solicitor of Labor M. Patricia Smith, Liz Claman of Fox Business News, President of the National Urban League Marc Morial and Scott McGee of Turner Classic Movies. Their recommendations are included on the initiative’s website, along with brief summaries of each book and links to related U.S. Department of Labor resources.
    Now the public is invited to expand the list. A simple, online form, which can be found at, makes it easy for anyone to suggest a book.

    View the video on YouTube

    “From a simple tale for children like ‘The Day the Crayons Quit’ to a scholarly tome like ‘Quality, Productivity and Competitive Position,’ the books on the list demonstrate the rich breadth and depth of work in America,” said Carl Fillichio, the department’s senior adviser for public affairs and chair of its Centennial. “As we continue to mark the Department of Labor’s 100 years of service to workers in our country, this project is a terrific way to educate the public about work, workers and the work of the Labor Department. Watching the list grow, and hearing the discussion broaden, is going to be very exciting.” Read Fillichio’s Get Out Your Work Books blog post.
    The project was inspired by the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress’ 2012 Books That Shaped America exhibition, which explored the impact of books on American life and culture. Many of the books in that exhibition had work as a central theme, bringing to light the significant role published works have played in shaping America’s view of workers and workplaces throughout its history.
    Created in 1913, the mission of the U.S. Department of Labor is to foster, promote and develop the welfare of the wage earners, job seekers and retirees of the United States; improve working conditions; advance opportunities for profitable employment; and assure work-related benefits and rights. To learn more about the department’s history, visit

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