Travel can be tiresome. It can also be interesting and fun. I travel a lot in my job.
The thing about travel is it gives you a chance to meet interesting people. I’ve met some pretty cool cats the past two trips.
Last week, I went to NYC. In leaving JFK I shared a cab with a guy who turned out to be a VP at a major e-mail marketing firm. It was a very cool and educational conversation about targeted e-mail.
Yesterday, however, I hit the trifecta of meeting cool and interesting people.
At Reagan National I shared a dinner table with a guy who works for a non-profit in DC that promotes religious freedom around the world. It’s a pretty non-sectarian outfit and we had a pretty broad conversation about freedom, religion and the media.
On the plane, I sat next to a reasonably high ranking government staffer who works for a VIP with a very important government agency. We talked non-stop for the entire hour-plus flight. I was as curious about his job as he was about mine. I didn’t get to ask as many as I wanted because he had his own coming at me rapid fire.
First, his questions were about newspapers and the state of the industry. Then we morphed into a conversation about blogging. He’s very, very interested in seeing his agency establish a blog.
If this significant government agency starts a blog, I hope he takes my advice:
- Be totally transparent
- The blogger should be conversational, respected and establish credibility, and comment on and link to other blogs
- Comments should be open and only filtered for hate, spam and abuse of legally-vetted policies (unique situation here in that the government has to be much more careful about First Amendment issues than private bloggers); no censorship … if there is criticism of the Bush Administration on this blog, it can’t be deleted, but this also allows a chance to respond to criticism and clarify issues.
- Break news and share news and clarify news on the blog
We exchanged cards. I hope the conversation will be ongoing, which is why I’m being very vague about who this guy was and who he works for. If he ever gives me permission to share more, I will. If the blog is launched, I imagine can tell you more then. (Ironically, we are both of the opinion that Beltway journalists overuse and abuse anonymous sources, to the detriment of both journalism and to the public, and here I am not revealing the guy’s identity! I’m such a hypocrite!:-))
I did tell him that once the blog is launched, it’s going to be targeted by bad actors, people who want to abuse policies and be abusive. There will be days where he buries his head in his hands and says, “Why did I ever do this?” I told him, “stay the course.” If you stick to your strategy and policies and manage things correctly, you’ll get past the dark days and have something very worthwhile.
The third cool cat I met was a Wall Street private equity investor type. He thinks I work for a very cool company, but that’s not why he’s worth mentioning.
The most interesting thing we talked about is when and why he reads the New York Daily News. When he’s in a public situation where he might be spotted by peers he wants to be seen with Wall Street Journal or New York Times in his hand, but his favorite paper is the Daily News. That’s his guilty pleasure. He said the writing has verve and personality and reporters aren’t afraid to tell you what they think. Forget the veneer of objectivity — put some personality in that writing. He thinks my whole notion of “personal journalism” is right on. Money quote: “The Daily News is link a blog on paper.”
It’s no wonder the Daily News is one of the few metro papers reporting circulation gains.