Off-Topic: Blogging Is A Public — Not Private Conversation

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Last week, at the Forum/Trabian conference, I picked up a copy of the Credit Union Times, which was distributed to attendees. While flipping through the issue, I saw a picture on page 6 that caught my eye.

It was a picture of Chuck Bruen, whose blog I regularly read.

I was so caught up in my “so that’s what Chuck Bruen looks like!” reaction, that I didn’t even notice the article that dominated the rest of the page until the next day, when I flipped through the issue again on the plane ride home.

What I missed, the first time around, was an article that mentioned my name three times. A complete surprise to me since I don’t think I’ve spoken to anyone from CU Times in years.

The article quoted something I had written on this site about Bellco’s campaign to attract New Horizons CU members.

What struck me as odd, though, was that the crux of the article wasn’t about Bellco. It was about the blogosphere’s response to the situation. In other words, it was the bloggers — myself, Tim McAlpine, Trey Reeme, Denise Wymore — who were making the news, not just commenting on it.

I realize this happens all the time in the political and technology arenas, but I guess I’ve either been too clueless or naive to think it was happening in the credit union/financial services space.

The CU Times article said that Denise was “puzzled by the Bellco strategy” and that Tim was “in a quandary” on what to say about Bellco’s tactics. While “puzzled” and “quandary” were words used by Denise and Tim, I doubt that they thought they’d see those words in print in CU Times.

And according to the article, Bellco has apparently “pointed to blogging remarks by Shevlin” in defending its ad approach.

On one hand, I’m flattered.

But on the other hand, it’s kind of scary. What else on this site has been used in ways I never intended? My purpose for commenting on Bellco was to provide advice to other CUs — not for Bellco to use to defend their actions. Which begs another question: To whom did they actually cite my blog in their defense?

The bottom line: We — bloggers and commenters — need to be more cognizant that our blog remarks are public statements. What often feels like (and may be intended to be) private conversations, or comments between friends, are not. And they’re subject to being taken out of context and used in ways that we don’t anticipate.

Last point: I hope I don’t sound like I’m criticizing Jim Rubenstein, the author of the article, or CU Times, in any way. I’ve got no issues with him or the magazine. What he did was perfectly acceptable, the article was well written, and in no way did he misquote or misrepresent anyone. The point of this post is for bloggers and commenters to recognize that the accountability for our statements lie with us.

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