Thursday, February 21, 2013

WisDOT Record Raises Questions About Agency "Ghost" Blogging, Monitoring

In the tradition of government communications speaking for themselves through publication in media outlets like the old I. F. Stone Weekly, or in the The Washington Monthly "Memo of the Month," I offer quotes from the minutes of a Zoo Interchange planning meeting at the Wisconsin Department of Transportation SE Regional office in Waukesha on July 16, 2008. 

The meeting had nine discussion items about public involvement on the project, and was attended by two WisDOT employees and eight contracting company representatives. How the agency should respond to blogs commenting on the project was the last of nine discussion items at the meeting, and is reprinted below:
Wisconsin Dept. of Transportation 

Wisconsin Dept. of Transportation 141 N W Barstow Street Waukesha, WI 53187-0798
PROJECT: 1060-33-01-Environmental PE Contract LOCATION: Michigan Room
MEETING NOTES No. 00002
DATE and TIME: 7/16/2008 at 1:00PM SUBJECT: PUBLIC INVOLVEMENT MEETING...
WEB BLOGS AND WEBSITES
Emlynn is looking for a new policy informing how and when to respond to blogs regarding the Zoo IC project. Is a ghost blog (anonymous blog) a good way to handle this, this has been done in the past. Also, how often are we monitoring? She is looking for advisement from the Office of Public Affairs (OPA)
Updates on efforts to contact WisDOT both Wednesday and Thursday, and contact made:  

I made separate calls seeking information and clarification on Wednesday afternoon to the two WisDOT personnel listed as attendees at the 7/16/08 meeting. 

I made a third call Wednesday afternoon to Michael Pyritz, a WisDOT communications staffer at the Waukesha WisDOT office, to whom one of the meeting attendees' voice mail had directed callers on Wednesday.

I then emailed Pyritz Thursday in further pursuit of information and clarification. He returned the email with a call Thursday at 5:18 p.m., and when we talked said emphatically he had never heard of any such blogging being carried out by WisDOT.

"I'm completely unaware of anything like that being done on any project," he said.

Pyritz said the 2008 meeting predated his arrival at WisDOT in 2012.

Any further responses from WisDOT will be posted. 

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

2008? This is the Doyle administration - has this continued?

John Foust said...

I guess it all depends on what they meant by "ghost blog." Does it mean a blog that's labelled as DOT and makes statements addressing questions raised in other blogs' posts or comments? Or is it a blog pretended to be owned by someone else?

Anonymous said...

John Foust - they said it was an "anonymous" blog. so not pretending to be someone else... but hiding who they really are.