NCFP 10th Year Celebration: Reflections on Identity

We’ve been doing this blog/network/community (BNC) for almost 10 years now. From November 2018 to November 2019 will be our Anniversary Year, a chance for reflection, celebration and renewal. For readers who are more pragmatic, our identity is important because we need to redesign our web presence, as the theme is no longer supported. Our new design should follow from what it is we do. And we’ll need to go looking for funding. So I’m looking to develop an “elevator speech” about what it is we do.

The BNC has changed quite a bit from what we first envisioned: Martin Nie and I talking about the development of the 2012 Planning Rule. Even at that time, our efforts were intended to be more or less forestry extension (in the Land Grant USDA Extension sense) about policy. The idea was to provide a forum in which academics and practitioners, and those who wanted to learn about a topic, could meet and discuss and debate forest policy issues. It started as posts by Martin and I and others, with discussion, but changed and grew over time to a broader focus.

I’ve told the story about getting into various levels of trouble as an employee because what I thought of as Extension, others saw as Public Affairs. If you talk to outsiders about silviculture, that’s a good thing. If you talk to outsiders about planning, that’s not so good. You can see why a person who had come from science (talking to people about your work is a good thing) to planning could have been confused. We were somewhere in an awkward, unexplored interface.

But here we are nine years later, and we are still in this strange and wonderful interface between news reporting, and public/science education or extension. We tend to use news articles as jumping off points for our discussions. In that sense, we are a news-sharing network. But we add value to those articles from our own experiences- or our own exploration of different news stories on the same subject, and speaking directly to the individuals involved in the story to get more information. Which verges on something we might call “supplementing or complementing news stories.”
In addition, our site provides a platform for stories you wouldn’t be likely to otherwise access, and voices you might not otherwise hear from, whether found or requested by us. We’re a bit like the “citizen journalism” movement or maybe we’re crowd-sourced journalism.

In the last nine years, nastiness online has increased, and complex issues have become simplified via applications like Twitter and due to partisan narratives. At our best, a reader can get a sense for a fair and accurate depiction of the news- not from any one of us, because we are all biased and have different experiences, but from all of us taken together. Any one of us does not need to be objective (which is impossible) because all of us contribute our different perspectives, and like the old story of the blind men and the elephant, somehow as the trunk and feet and tail are described, we can catch a glimmer of the elephant. And most of the time, we model respectful disagreement and dialogue.

I’d like to hear from you what you think we are and are doing, and what value we add to you. Also if you know of people or groups or websites which do similar things, that would be helpful information. If we were to give the website an updated title, would it be “National Forest News Network”
“Forest News and Commentary” “National Forest Policy Learning Network” or ??

And a thank you to everyone who has read, commented or contributed to this amazing journey.

2 thoughts on “NCFP 10th Year Celebration: Reflections on Identity”

  1. Thank you, Sharon, for your ambition to open communication channels on important public land topics. I agree that the breadth of comments has verged on “edgy”, but if we cannot have respectful disagreements, what does that say about each of us?

    I have plugged this blog site numerous times this year as I became more interested and engaged in the topics presented. There are important perspectives that deserve to be shared as we seek information that either aligns with or contradicts our understanding. I look forward to doing more of the same in 2019.

    As for the name, the current title is dated and should be changed. I support any of the options you presented.


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