State Department opens up with Dipnote blog

The State Department’s Bureau of Public Affairs launched into the blogosphere Sept. 28 with Dipnote, the agency’s new official blog that aims to shed light on the typically secretive nature of diplomacy.

“People are very interested because it is somewhat contradictory to diplomacy, which is conducted behind closed doors,” said Frederick Jones, editor of the blog. “We’d like to create a foreign-policy community that is interested in these” topics.

Dipnote is open to the public in addition to agency employees and thus different from the agency’s Office of eDiplomacy’s Communities @ State blog initiative, which is meant to be used in the agency. The program is also different from Office of Public Diplomacy efforts that focus on engaging foreign audiences through using blogs and other online tools.

The comments and questions on Dipnote are not generally filtered. But getting officials used to following a strict hierarchy before speaking publicly to participate in the off-the-cuff medium represents a major challenge, Jones said.

“I want candor, kind of spontaneous and contemporaneous material,” said Jones, who is also the bureau’s deputy director for strategic communications. “This building is not known for its frivolous nature. It’s a serious place dealing with serious issues, and people clear every line before they say it before they print. It’s our major challenge.”

State officials plan to have a series of components to the blog, including a question of the week section they hope will elicit debate and a section where State employees blog about their workdays.

State spokesman Sean McCormack came up with the idea during a trip to Silicon Valley.

The goal is to create a dialog about American foreign policy, both domestically and internationally, Jones added.

“We want to push the envelope — this is pushing the State Department into modernity in terms of our communication," Jones said.

About the Author

Ben Bain is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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