What is the difference between a newsletter and a blog?
This morning's post on HocoRising has prompted me to to address this
question publicly. Tom Coale has taken criticsim from some fellow CA
Board members because he covers CA Board meetings on his blog. I find it
ironic that his critics are the same people who rant continually about
transparency and openness. Yet they don't want their actions at a CA
Board Meeting to come to light.
(Disclaimer: this blog post was written without the knowledge of Mr.
Coale. He is in no way responsible for its content. When I write blog
posts in response to articles on Columbia Patch, or in the Flier, or
another HoCoBlog, it would similarly refelect only my point of view. Got
Now, back to our question. What is the difference between a newsletter
and a blog? Why do I ask? Alex Hekimian writes a regular newsletter
called "Hot Topics" which is sent out to a private email list in Oakland
Mills. While purporting to be an official communication of his work on
the CA Board, it is not available to be read by all Oakland Mills
residents. You have to know it exists, and request to be added.
An interesting tidbit: when Mr. Hekimian started this newsletter, he
didn't send it to the Village Board or the Village Manager. This went on
until word somehow leaked back to the Board and they had to request to
be added. In a sense, Mr. Hekimian was having regular private
communication with a select group of residents without informing the
Oakland Mills Village Board or the Village Manager.
I received this newsletter for a brief period of time while I was on the
OM Board. Then I was mysteriously removed from the list. I never asked
to be removed. Someone had to actively remove me for that to happen.
While I was receiving "Hot Topics" I discovered it was not at all an
accurate representation of what was happening at the Village level. I am
reasonably certain it doesn't accurately represent what happens on the
CA Board, either.
A newsletter should contain news. "Hot Topics" goes out looking like
official communication but it is an opinion piece through and through.
Mr. Hekimian uses half truths, rumors, and inflammatory statements to
stir up residents in favor of his own agenda. This document is not
vetted by Oakland Mills or the Columbia Association. I truly don't know
why someone hasn't issued a cease and desist order on this. It creates a
toxic work environment for both community volunteers and CA
professionals whose work is disrupted and sabotaged routinely by its
Back to HoCoRising, the blog which has taken so much flack. The blog is
posted on the HoCoBlogs website and is open to anyone, no subscription
or permission necessary. In addition, Mr. Coale freely admits that his
blog contains opinions as well as facts. He has set a high standard for
himself in how he will cover the CA Board meetings. He communicates as
much as he can without overstepping the bounds of professional behavior.
His readers are encouraged to learn more and come to their own
conclusions.Open discourse in the comments section continues this
process. He doesn't claim for one minute that his blog is an official
part of his representation of his village or his position on the CA
So, on the one hand we have a newsletter whose membership is private,
suggests it is official when it is not, and contains opinions that are
called fact. On the other hand we have a blog which is open to all, which clearly
labels itself as the personal project of a private individual, and is
quick to distinguish fact from opinion.
So here is my opinion. If Mr. Hekimian wants to have a newsletter to
represent his work as a member of the Columbia Council, it must go out
through the official e-newsletter process of the Oakland Mills Community
Association. And that means it will be read, checked for
errors, and shared with the OM Board and the Columbia Association. But if
Mr. Hekimian wants a platform for sharing his personal opinions, he
needs to do something very different.
He needs to have his own blog.