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FCW Insider: The return of Lurita

Yes, just when you thought that Lurita Alexis Doan was gone — she's back!

I heard about this a few weeks ago, but this morning Federal News Radio sent out a press release, with the headline Coup for Federal News Radio, announcing that she will be joining the DC radio station as a regular commentator. She had her first appearance this morning, which WFED headlines Lurita Doan Speaks Out on FederalNewsRadio. Of course, the challenge for the General Services Administration was getting Doan to not speak out. (Many people still remember Doan's brush with Anne Armstrong during an IAC meeting.)

At this point, I have to acknowledge that I am not objective when it comes to Doan. For months now, Doan has refused to talk to us — inexplicably, in my mind. We did — and have — treated Doan very fairly.

Actually, I have spent a good chunk of time pondering whether we treated Doan too fairly, if there can be such a thing. By not playing "got ya" journalism, did we do a disservice to GSA? And to Doan?

A case in point: FCW had the first interview with Doan. She had only been the GSA administrator for a few weeks. During that interview, she went on something of a screed about the Defense Department. We ended up not using it because I didn't — and don't — believe it was accurate, and I think it would have hurt GSA's relationship with DOD. Furthermore, she had only been there a matter of weeks, and I believed she was speaking out of turn. DOD, of course, is GSA's largest customer, and GSA is absolutely dependent on that relationship. So the story would have been "accurate" in the micro-sense — the quotes would have been accurate — but I believed — and believe — the story would have been inaccurate in the macro-sense.

My determination was that one story wasn't worth it. It was "got ya" journalism, and we didn't use it.

In the coming months, Doan went on to have a now infamous meeting with Gordon England, the Defense Department's deputy secretary, in which she essentially insulted him by comparing the number of DOD staff people — there were many — to the number of GSA staff people — there were only a few. Even months later, England told friends about the meeting and how shocked he was that the GSA administrator was critiquing him. The meeting hurt the DOD/GSA relationship.

So my internal debate has been whether, in the long run, we hurt GSA by not getting Doan's inaccurate words out there sooner rather than later?

There is no real answer, of course. In the end, we probably should have looked at the DOD piece itself as a separate story and had people talk about the accuracy of the comments. But we didn't.

In the end, I think it is always better to err on the side of fairness, but it still makes me ponder.

But I do feel that we treated Doan very fairly during her tenure.

And so I'm a bit surprised that she has noticeably refused to talk to us following her resignation. It just perplexes me.

The only thing that I have heard is that she was very upset when, on April 30, soon after she was asked to resign, this post had this passage:

Why now? One insider tells me that White House officials were just sick and tired of dealing with Doan issues. I have no idea how accurate that is, but it would seem to make sense. (One person told me that, candidly, GSA is a third-tier agency that usually doesn't get much White House attention. Doan has managed to get White House attention for GSA — but not in the way that the agency might want it.)

One person suggests that Doan had become more hassle than she was worth. The White House apparently wanted to wait long enough so the administration didn't look like it was kowtowing to Waxman or Grassley.

I have highlighted the pertinent part — the third-tier agency.

These high-profile jobs are very complex. I often wonder why anybody would agree to be put under the kind of scrutiny that these people are forced to undergo. And I think Doan had her motivations unfairly questioned. The suggestion that she was some kind of political operative is just a caricature. It makes for good copy, but I don't believe it is accurate, nor do I believe it is fair.

Like all of us, Doan has some real strengths, but in the end, she was brought down by her weaknesses — weaknesses that she refused to acknowledge. In the end, the weaknesses were her strengths in excess. She is a very strong person who is amazingly passionate. But she was undone by that passion and her inability to listen and trust others.

And, in a way, her reaction to the "third-tier" comment is illustrative — she was, in a way, so passionate about GSA that she forgot that it is a service organization. It does well when the agencies do well.

But it is remarkable how quickly all of these Doan thoughts come back to us.

Welcome back, Lurita. We missed you! And we know it will make for great radio.

Posted by Christopher J. Dorobek on Jul 22, 2008 at 12:17 PM


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