Presentation on NCFP Blog at the Society of American Foresters Convention

Here is a link to my powerpoint. Note that this was my first presentation as a retiree, so I now realize could have spent more time developing templates, cartoons and photos. Jay O’Laughlin’s presentation, in particular, gave me something to strive for..

Most of this regular readers are familiar with.  I’d like to discuss in particular slides 8 and 9

—The FS doesn’t tell its’ own story- why not?
—Need for vetting by Administration
—Cultural factors about responding to criticism
—“Telling our story” vs. “sounding defensive”
—Why is this a problem?
—It’s demoralizing for employees to hear untrue statements and not be able to respond
—The public does not get to hear the whole story about their own public lands


What about the Media

  • —Quote from a colleague:    —“After working on “project Methusaleh” I will never again believe anything I read in the paper”.
  • —The business of journalism is falling apart around our ears and being replaced by hyper-partisanized sources of information.
  • —Therefore someone needs to step up, if we want the public to have good information.
  • —But not clear that anyone will fund this.


I often have post-presentation regrets, and, in this case, one is that I didn’t mean to criticize in any way, shape or form, the current people working in public affairs in the Forest Service. My experience with them has been that they are dedicated and professional public servants who do excellent work. Unfortunately, they have not been allowed, in some cases, to do their work.

Many administrations are pretty tight with control at the beginning and then loosen up through time. This one, though, seems to have always been tightly controlled. I certainly can understand not wanting to make embarrassing mistakes.  Still the natural consequences of this behavior is that the public isn’t hearing the whole story and we are paying civil servants to not quite do their job. IMHO.

In the presentation, I used an analogy of a parent with two warring siblings. If Tiffany says Emelia hit her, and the parent never asks Emelia for her side of the story,  Tiffany might get more and more, shall we say, imaginative in her description of what goes on through time, knowing that Emelia would never be given her chance to speak. Emelia is counting the days til she can get out of the house, or bearing what she knows to be fundamental injustice with possibly some emotional or mental injury (or poor morale?).

It would be great if some of the media folks who read this blog could comment on my observations.

Any other comments or questions would also be appreciated.  As I’ve noted before, there was a great deal of support for the blog and what it does. Thanks to you all.

And a special thanks to Martin Nie, Jim Burchfield, and the University of Montana for being willing to step out into the unknown when we started this blog.

You can generate a host of worrisome possibilities that might occur if you take action in attempting to make the world a better place, or you can step out and trust in the people and our mutual ability to adapt to unknown futures. Knowing the difference- in your mind, in your heart, and in your gut- is the wisdom of real leadership. IMHO.




5 thoughts on “Presentation on NCFP Blog at the Society of American Foresters Convention”

  1. Sharon, You state “It would be great if some of the media folks who read this blog could comment on my observations”

    Why not ask those responsible ? May I suggest that you contact Leo Kay, Director of the Office of Communication, in the Chief’s office refer to this blog and pose the question “The FS doesn’t tell its’ own story- why not?” His response would be of great interest, not only to readers of this blog, but to the thousands of loyal FS employees who are asking the same question.

    His email is

    • The easy answer is: the USDA is keeping a very tight rein on any national communications products: Twitter, YouTube, Flickr (forget Facebook). The Department wants only one “voice” speaking for all of its agencies.

  2. Funny this should come up right now. Media outreach efforts by the FS detailing the FS’s role during recovery work for Hurricane Sandy are being buried by USDA. Apparently any news releases, web postings, photo postings by the agency must be first cleared through FEMA.

    • Rob Chaney wrote a piece in the Missoulian about this…here, but otherwise things have been fairly silent. Maybe other newspapers should use the same methodology, call and see what’s going on.

  3. Mac- that’s a great idea but I think I will wait on any outreach on this topic until November 7th. It’s too important a topic to risk it becoming connected in any way to You Know What.


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