Friday, May 10, 2013

Shed A Little Light

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 it?  Good.)

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 after effects.

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 Board.

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.


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