FedSmith.com provides a service to all members of the federal government community. We are working to constantly improve our service. All services we provide are free. Our company is an active member of the federal government community.
The Internet is a strange creature. It gives anyone access to millions of people without having direct human contact. This is a challenge for all of us. We try to meet this challenge by interacting with our readers as frequently and as directly as we can. For that reason, I want to clearly explain a FedSmith.com policy that has generated numerous complaints from readers.
FedSmith.com occasionally links to articles from the Washington Post. I will take personal responsibility for this. I do it because they have articles that cannot be found elsewhere and the articles are relevant to the federal government community.
Whenever we do set up a link to the Post, I brace for a brief flurry of e-mail. Some are thoughtful but question why our company requires registration to read an article. Some are irate and wonder why we are violating various perceived rights (Constitutional or otherwise) of an American citizen to be able to read what they want without charge and without having to provide any personal information. Often the originator of the e-mail threatens to cancel his or her free subscription to our daily newsletter and take his business elsewhere unless or until we correct this problem.
This week I set up a link to a Post article which was not otherwise available. It was written by a Post reporter and, in my opinion, a good human interest article for our audience.
The gist of the article was that an associate director for the Office of Personnel Management, Steve Benowitz, had issued a memo to managers at OPM telling them to require interns to attend a briefing arranged for the OPM director to address them. The memo, as quoted in the Post said: “A couple of things to pass on to each intern. When you get an invitation from your boss, it’s not optional. It only sounds like an invitation because we’re polite.”
Steve probably doesn’t remember meeting me. But I have met him at various labor relations conferences and human resources conferences over the past two decades. He is a very smart guy with considerable experience and it is easy to see why he advanced into his current job. He can also be very direct. His direct, candid advice probably helped the careers of some of these interns who may not have known any better. On the other hand, candor is not a highly prized attribute in many corners of the federal bureaucracy and speaking clearly and directly stands out in a world where being obtuse and indirect is often the safest course of action.
In any event, the story had a lot of appeal for readers and I set up a link to the news item for FedSmith.com readers.
When a story like this appears, we have a couple of choices. We have a couple million hits per month, mostly from federal employees and retirees and they live all over the world. Most of them probably don’t subscribe to the Washington Post and most will never know about the news item. We can tell our readers, in effect, here is an interesting story most of you probably don’t know about but would enjoy reading. We label the news item as being from the Post because we know from experience the paper requires registration and we know that this will irritate some people.
Our second choice is to ignore the news item. If we ignore it, most readers will never know the difference. We won’t get irate e-mail from readers asking why we are requiring them to divulge personal information and they won’t want to cancel their free subscription even though they will be missing a good news item. On the other hand, those who would find the story interesting won’t know about it and won’t get as much out of FedSmith.com’s free service.
The result is that we usually set up the link to the news item in the Post and just roll with the inevitable criticism. We will also tell all readers it is a Post article so you can ignore it if you wish to do so.
So all of our subscribers will understand how this system works, here is why we can’t change the registration policy.
First, requiring registration to read a Post article is not our policy. It is the policy of the Washington Post.. My guess is that the paper wants the registration information to enhance its advertising. They are spending a great deal of money to pay the reporters, develop the news sources, and provide the information to readers at no direct cost. The indirect cost is to gather information for the paper to determine its advertising rates. FedSmith.com has no control over their registration policy.
Second, if you see an article we have labeled as being from the Post and you do not want to register, please ignore it. Others will want to read it and do not mind registering in order to get the information. It is for the benefit of these other readers that we are setting up the link to the Post article.
Third, FedSmith.com does not have access to any of the registration information you may provide to the Post or any other news source. We do not sell or rent our mailing list. We don’t want you as one of our subscribers to get irritating e-mail spam.
And, for what it is worth, I have personally registered with e-mail with the Post and have not received any spam from having done this.
I hope this explains our policy in linking to articles from any paper that runs an informative, interesting article we think readers will want to know about–even if it may require registration.
We hope all readers continue to enjoy your subscription to our daily e-mail newsletter. We seriously consider any comments we receive and then make a decision that we think will make the site more interesting and useful to the most people.