Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Reader Comments – Inspector Issues

Yesterday Lisa left a comment on my blog posting about the CFSI pay issue. She expressed some frustration with my recent coverage of personnel issues at ISCD, writing (in part):

“Additionally, it appears as if this blog is becoming more and more of a site for inspectors that have an axe to grind. I hope that you can return to your roots of offering non-opinionated information and data in the near future.”
Too Much Coverage?

I do appreciate the input; bloggers that don’t pay attention to the opinions of their readers quickly find themselves preaching to an empty church. Of course it is easy to assume that a reader comment is indicative of something more than just the comment of that one reader. Fortunately, I have some tools other than just reader comments to track viewer thoughts.

Google Analytics® is one tool that bloggers use to track readership and which posts receive the most traffic. The five posts (out of 119 this year as of yesterday) that I have done this year on ISCD personnel issues (only three directly dealing with inspectors) always draw a lot of interest. And they typically draw traffic to the site for a number of days. So it would seem that not all readers share Lisa’s concern. Of course there may be others that do.

Chemical Security Community

In this blog I try to address issues that I think will be of interest to a diverse, ill defined chemical security community. I have exchanged views in this blog with environmentalists, regulators, legislators, chemical facility personnel, security contractors, cyber security experts, reporters and researchers. And of course don’t forget that a number of chemical facility inspectors also read this blog.

In each blog posting that I write, I know that there will be some people that will be interested in the information and others that won’t. That’s one of the reasons that I address such a wide variety of topics in the blog. Some times I am consciously trying to address a specific segment of the community, but most often I think that the information will be of at least some interest to most of the different elements of the community.

In a number of cases I address issues that I know would not generally attract the attention of the larger audience, because I think that they need to know the information to better perform their jobs. Those posts I generally try to keep short so that they will at least be scanned by most readers. Anything that affects the performance of the CFATS program generally will fall into this category. And CFSI will have a major impact on how the CFATS program is actually implemented.

Of course, I have to admit that a major reason that I write this blog is that I want to influence the chemical facility security community. I want to influence how facilities look at their security. I want influence how DHS will develop and enforce the CFATS regulations. And I want to influence how Congress will deal with the complex issues surrounding chemical facility security, including personnel issues.

Non-opinionated Information

I must admit that I was very surprised by Lisa’s comment about returning to providing ‘non-opinionated information’. The one thing that I know that I have consistently provided is my opinion on a wide variety of the issues of interest to different parts of this community. While I certainly provide a variety of information, I am not a news agency. But this is a blog after all; it is a forum for my views on a wide variety of subjects.

The one thing that I try to be careful to do is to differentiate between fact and opinion. I may not always be successful, but I certainly try. When I report on information received directly from readers that becomes an interesting exercise. As I said I am not a news agency and have only limited capability to confirm information. So the information cannot necessarily be considered fact, but it isn’t my opinion. In such cases I typically use phrases like ‘it has been reported’, ‘apparently’, ‘I have been told’ and other weasel words.

I try to avoid the reporting industry standards for quoting unnamed sources. I don’t think that it is fair to quote someone who isn’t willing (probably for legitimate reasons) to attach their name to the quote. I’ll report the information, but I won’t provide a quote. That doesn’t conform to current industry practices, but this is a blog, not a newspaper.

In any case, I appreciate Lisa’s comment. I will try to make sure that I don’t allow this blog to turn into a forum for a single issue.

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