Blogger Spotlight: TSA's Blogger Bob

Curtis 'Bob' Burns brings subject-matter expertise and a sense of humor to the TSA blog

FCW's John Monroe recently conducted an e-mail interview with Curtis "Blogger Bob" Burns, who leads the team at the TSA Blog. Here is the full transcript of that interview.

What is your background at TSA?

I joined the Transportation Security Administration in 2002 and was part of the team that federalized Cincinnati’s international airport (CVG). I worked at CVG until March 2008 and served in a number of positions, including supervisory screening officer, trainer, training coordinator, operations officer and behavior detection officer.

How does blogging fit into your other job responsibilities?

Blogging and social media [are] my main responsibility, but I’m regularly involved in various projects. Being a former employee at an airport or “the field,” I can offer a unique perspective on messaging to the workforce and other internal projects. I also monitor the Web and blogosphere, manage a passenger feedback program, speak on behalf of the agency at conferences, and have even helped other government entities launch social media projects.

How did you get involved with the TSA blog? Did you have any previous background in blogging?

I was in the right place at the right time. My field experience and my knowledge of both TSA procedures and passenger issues made me a prime candidate. Prior to the blogger position opening up, I had been serving on TSA’s National Advisory Council for two years. We met quarterly at TSA HQ, and leadership quickly learned more about me and recognized my passion for communicating via social media.

I’ve been fascinated with computer-based communications for as long as I can remember. Growing up with stamped letters and long-distance charges, I found the advent of e-mail and instant messaging fascinating. I’ve been reading and participating on blogs and message boards for years, and I just kind of unintentionally developed an understanding of how they work and the tone that’s used when writing on them. I never dreamed I would one day be a blogger by profession, but isn’t it funny how life works sometimes?

What do you see as the mission of the TSA blog?

The blog is a way for TSA to be able to communicate with the traveling public in an informal and interesting way and clarify things while providing information that will not only help passengers better understand our mission, but also help them better understand our procedures and make life easier for them at our checkpoints.

How do you decide what to write about? How do you keep it interesting?

I monitor the Web daily and can get a pretty good feel for what the temperature is on certain topics. If I feel we can help clarify things, we blog about it. We also announce new initiatives and take every opportunity we can to bust myths and answer the why's of security, such as the liquid policy and shoe removal. I keep it interesting by using humor whenever I can, and at times, I blog about obscure things, such as exploding chickens and airbags. Humor goes a long way when you’re blogging about topics that could otherwise be dreadfully dry.

What has been your favorite blog post so far?

It’s a post called “Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road” where I use every corny chicken pun known to the human race to describe an incident where a chicken on the side of the road was found to be an improvised explosive device. It was all in good fun, but as far as a serious post, it has to be the “Bob Screens the Apple MacBook Air” post. A problem had been identified on our blog with the screening of Apple’s new potato chip-thin laptop. Long story short, we determined what the problem was, and training was developed for 45,000 members of our workforce. It was a great example of how TSA and the traveling public could work together to improve the passenger screening experience.

What blogs do you enjoy reading?

I read all sorts of blogs on history and music, but as far as work-related blogs, I enjoy reading "Mashable" and various government-related blog posts that pop up at GovLoop.

About the Author

John Monroe is Senior Events Editor for the 1105 Public Sector Media Group, where he is responsible for overseeing the development of content for print and online content, as well as events. John has more than 20 years of experience covering the information technology field. Most recently he served as Editor-in-Chief of Federal Computer Week. Previously, he served as editor of three sister publications: civic.com, which covered the state and local government IT market, Government Health IT, and Defense Systems.

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