Another example is an internal
one. We had a Coast Guardsman
pass away of natural causes [Cmdr.
Keith Willis, the commanding officer
of the cutter Kittery, was found dead
on the ship Feb. 15]. That information was out so fast because he
had classmates who were on the ship
with him and, all of a sudden, communications start taking place and
you’re trying to notify next of kin before they find out from someone else.
So those two cases are perfect
examples, because you never want
to compromise a law enforcement
operation, but at the same time,
you want to tell what’s going on
out there because it’s so important
for the American people and the
international community to understand.
How do you determine if you’re successful at
getting information out there?
LANDRY: If you feel the story you were telling is accurately explained and portrayed, that’s the first part of it.
… That’s a measure of success to us. And the second
measure of success is that we don’t get anybody angry
at us because we’ve gone too far with our information.
You’re always walking that … dynamic tension that
exists between how much information you can share
in a law enforcement operation versus how much you
want to tell the story.
How have bloggers changed what you do?
How much of an impact do blogs have?
LANDRY: Their impact, it’s huge. I think what’s changed
for us is the challenge of what used to be “beat CNN.”
You’re now trying to be out there in the digital world as
quickly as possible so that you’re providing the accurate
story. I think the timing of it [is] the biggest challenge.
The second challenge is the rules of engagement. I don’t
think they are clearly defined yet and I don’t think the
journalistic standards have been written or refined for
this [form of] media. It’s the wild, wild West of journalism and anybody can play. In some ways, you could say
it’s participatory democracy at its finest.
The wonderful thing is everybody can get involved.
The challenge is that there are no boundaries, there are no
rules, there are no standards. It’s very hard to decide who
to engage with and how to engage. Our responsibility is to
set the policy, set the guidelines, make sure we stay within the legal boundaries that we know exist for privacy. We
have to uphold very high ethical standards in an environment where the standards haven’t been established clearly.
What kind of outlets do you give bloggers to
LANDRY: Sometimes we engage in the medium itself
— back and forth — and sometimes we talk to people
over the phone. We try to identify, first of all, certain
standards of behavior. We’ve published our standards
and made them available to everybody. If somebody’s
not crossing the line egregiously and they seem to be
applying rigor — although they’re highly opinionated
— we’ll still engage. When they cross the line and they
don’t have the standards that we feel are appropriate —
and they obviously don’t have any kind of journalistic
rigor — then we don’t engage.
A lot of times, you’re making these judgments and
there is no perfect, clear answer. It’s not cut and dried.
But what we try to use as a rule of thumb is we published our standards first; we’re not going to hold anybody to a set of standards unless we hold ourselves to
those standards. We use those same guidelines in deciding who we’re going to engage with.
What is the most expedient way for your
office to disseminate information?
LANDRY: You can’t just do a press release anymore; it’s
not enough. You’ve got bloggers’ roundtables you can
set up online and you’ve got traditional media that you
can call out to. You don’t say no to anybody and you
don’t focus in one area.
What do you think is the future for blogs and
how you engage with them?
LANDRY: I look at them as a real opportunity. I see the
whole digital medium and the Web as this participatory democracy thing. When you’re a regulatory agency
and you’re a public servant, the ability to engage with