My friend Bruno Giussani has just made me feel better that I didn’t receive an invitation to the World Economic Forum in Davos this year. (Of course, remembering that the last time I went to Davos, I paid $250 a night to stay in a room in a hospital 3km from the center of town because all the rooms in town were booked also makes me feel better about missing this meeting.)
The WEF has been trumpeting their group blog, Forumblog, which advertises, “Every participant of the Annual Meeting â€“ ranging from business leaders to political leaders, heads of NGOs, religious leaders, academics and journalists â€“ will be asked to join the Forum blog.” While this is true, Bruno points out that they won’t be able to post to the blog without their contribution being manually added to the blog by one of the blog’s four editors. The editors explain that, “Opinions will not be censored, however posts that do not abide by these guidelines will not be published, particularly those that do not conform to the on/off the record policy.”
The on/off the record policy is particularly interesting. Of the dozens of venues for meetings at Davos, only three are “on the record” spaces. (It would be fairly absurd to declare these spaces off the record, as what happens in these rooms is broadcast on hotel rooms across town, offering the intriguing possibility of blogging Davos from your room. If you’re lucky enough to get a room.) In the other rooms, “You can report on the tenor of the debate, but you must not quote participants directly. If, however, you receive their subsequent permission you may quote them.”
These rules aren’t new. And they make some sense – the idea behind Davos is that it gives public figures a chance to think through complex issues without being quite as careful in their wording as they would be if all statements were on the record. But they make it difficult to blog from Davos. Two years ago, I did my best to blog following these rules… and generally discovered that I was being far, far more careful than I normally was. (As a result, I was even more boring than I usually am.) I can only imagine how careful I’d be if my posts needed to be cleared by a WEF editor before going live.
Certainly some good blogging will take place at WEF, probably on blogs other than the official WEF blog. But I share Bruno’s question – how exactly is this project a blog? Because it’s based on Moveable Type? I find it hard to believe that anything written for submission to WEF editors by a public figure isn’t going to be as carefully vetted as a press release. And reading a collection of press releases from Davos attendees doesn’t strike me as a real good time.