Transparency leads to genuine debate

A thoughtful view on what the role of a blog sponsored and supported by the World Economic Forum should be and how the blog should develop comes from Lance Knoble writing in his Davos Newbies blog, in specific regard to the effects of the controversial Eason Jordan affair

First, a quick recap for anyone outside the US who hasn’t heard about the Eason Jordan affair.

This is about Jordan, a senior news executive at CNN, being forced to quit in the wake of the thunderstorm that erupted after he made comments at the World Economic Forum meeting last month alleging that US troops in Iraq were targeting journalists and had killed twelve. (The session at which Jordan made those comments was recorded, but the WEF has so far refused to release the recording.)

But the affair is also about the power of the US political blogosphere and its undoubted influence, if this is anything to judge that by. Business Week has a good article on this topic, which I commented on yesterday.

So, back to Lance Knoble who, among other things, wonders a) what the Jordan affair means for the World Economic Forum blog where Jordan’s comments were first reported, and b) where does openness and transparency reside in such a situation for the WEF which supports the blog.

Knoble suggests the WEF can either suspend the blog or try and control its content. But in dismissing those options, he offers a third attractive alternative:

The whole point of a weblog is to have the unfiltered, honest voice of the writer come through. That isn’t happening yet with the Forum blog, and any tighter controls would make it impossible. […] Here’s what should happen. Every participant in Davos is given a weblog of her or his own, just as they are given Davos emails, iPAQs and personalised programmes. Sure, only a minor percentage would do anything with their weblog. […] But let’s say that 5 per cent of participants write regularly. That’s 100 new perspectives on an amazing event. The Forum blog becomes an aggregator for the 100 (or however many) individual weblogs. The kind of multi-faceted, rich picture that so many people (myself included) have tried so hard over the years to convey from Davos is delivered seamlessly.

At the same time, encourage some real Forum blogs, written by the insiders in Cologny. […] Why not a Forum Channel 9? [WEF Chairman] Klaus Schwab could even follow the lead of a member like Richard Edelman and write a weekly reflection on the issues that concern him.

I have no doubt which path a confident, forward-looking organisation would take.

Laudable points. I very much agree with Knoble’s third attractive alternative, which I believe would help expand greater understanding of the Forum and what it is trying to achieve.

The real story here is about openness and transparency, in order to develop genuine debate.