A good number of FS officers, specialists and family members have been blogging the past several years. I’ve stop counting when I got to a hundred. AFSA has an index here and AAFSW has a list here but our blog friend, Digger of Life After Jerusalem probably has the most complete list.
We have seen very few of our ambassadors tackle the brave new world of blogging. They are right now a minority, and we can actually count them with our fingers. For a while we had career diplomat, Robert Godec who was US Ambassador to Tunisia. We so missed more of his Cat in a Hat poetry. He left post six months ago; his successor, Gordon Gray did not pick up blogging so the blog is no longer updated.
There was our favorite representative to the Philippines, Kristie Kenney who always made good copy whether she was on TV or exploring the Philippine archipelago. She went back to the US recently so her blogging adventure is now concluded.
There is career diplomat, John Beyrle our ambassador to Moscow. He has been blogging in Russian in LiveJournal for a while now but since we can’t read Russian, we have to make do with looking at his blog pictures.
Another career diplomat who is blogging is Kathleen Stephens, our ambassador to Seoul who blogs at Café USA. The platform is in Korean and entries are readable in Korean and English. Navigation is not great unless you also read Korean. Click on Amb. Stephens Blog to see the index of her blog posts. The US Mission in South Korea is also on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. The Information Resource Center Seoul has its own blog here in Korean.
The latest crop of blogs that have sprouted, however, are by ambassadors who are a phone call away from the White House.
David C. Jacobson, our ambassador to Canada was the first one to roll out his blog at
http://blogs.ottawa.usembassy.gov/ambassador/ : “Welcome to my blog. I hope to use this space to share my experiences in Canada and give you a sense of the views of my government and our work here. I also look forward to hearing from you and encourage you to contact me via email.” It does not look like Ambassador Jacobson has a separate published account in social networking sites but US Mission Canada is on Twitter, iTunes, Flickr, YouTube, and Facebook.
Bruce Oreck, our ambassador to Finland maintains the Ambassador’s Journal, separate from the embassy’s Helsinki DipBlog. Ambassador Oreck has his own photostream in Flickr (some gorgeous photographs), and is on Twitter, YouTube and Facebook. The US Mission in Helsinki has its own page in Facebook run by the American Resource Center and USEmbassyHelsinki, its own YouTube channel.
Jeffrey L. Bleich, our ambassador to Australia presented his credentials to Governor General Quentin Bryce on November 26, 2009. He started blogging the same day (See Day One) at the embassy’s official blog USRS Australia. He also maintains a Travel Map in the embassy’s website. Ambassador Bleich does not have a published account in social networking sites but US Mission Australia has a page in Facebook and is on Twitter and YouTube.
The latest ambassador to jump into blogging is Matthew Barzun, our ambassador to Sweden with his Blog Om Sweden, http://blogomsweden.blogspot.com/: “An American ambassador gets an education by engaging with the people, politics, and panoramas of Sweden.” He writes: “I want Swedes and Americans to engage and collaborate with each other even more. Since I live at the intersection of our two great nations, I started this blog to report on my experiences with the hope that it might generate ideas, open new doors of insight, and facilitate new connections. Let me know what you’re thinking and what you’re working on. Contact me at: email@example.com.”
His first post had this: “Thanks for joining US Embassy Stockholm’s maiden voyage into the blogosphere. When we first discussed hosting a blog, there were, to be honest, mixed feelings. On one hand, it’s my goal to promote the free exchange of ideas and to feed a lively, ongoing conversation. On the other, ambassadors are supposed to be careful with their words and, well, stately. But if there’s anything I’ve learned from my experiences with the Internet and with President Obama, it’s that open is better than closed. Engagement is better than entrenchment.”
Ambassador Barzun does not have a published account in social networking sites but the US Mission in Sweden is on Facebook, Twitter, has a YouTube Channel and a photo gallery in Flickr.
The mixed feelings he mentioned above are not surprising; they are probably on replay in different missions across the globe. It is also not surprising to me that the latest crop of COM bloggers with all the Web 2.0 tools are all political appointees.
I should note that there are also three ambassadors who do not have blogs but still managed to run a pretty savvy media operation in my view: Timothy Roemer in New Delhi, Karl Eikenberry in Kabul and Cameron Hume in Jakarta (rumored to be the next ambassador to Pakistan). The last two in no small part due to their Facebook outreach.
Somewhere the old guard is watching “openness” and engagement” with trepidation. The old world has changed. Won’t you risk irrelevance if you refuse to change?