Web Credibility: Speak for Yourself BEFORE the Media Speak for You

Here’s one interesting way the Internet has altered my perception of legitimacy: As far as I’m concerned, credible, serious organizations have Web sites that explain who they are and offer all of their current information and news, and that provide a means of direct contact. I expect any organization which is serious about communicating on any issue to IMMEDIATELY publish a Web site in order to communicate directly with the public – before they start calling reporters.

If a group doesn’t publish a Web site right from day one, if they attempt to speak solely through the media or other intermediaries even for a day, my radar goes up. Something clearly seems amiss. I automatically become more wary and skeptical.

This applies even when a group includes famous or influential people, like the newly announced group Diplomats and Military Commanders for Change – a coalition of 26 retired U.S. diplomats and military officers who claim that the Bush administration’s policies in Iraq and elsewhere have signifcantly undermined national security.

DMCC doesn’t have a Web site – not just yet, anyway. I just spoke to their press officer Connie Coopersmith, who told me that the DMCC’s site, www.diplomatsforchange.com, is expected to hit the Web tonight.

I’m glad DMCC is getting their online act together. However – and I realize this sounds picky – the timing of their Web debut irks me…

Yesterday the breaking news of DMCC’s existence and intentions made major headlines around the US. (USA Today, NPR, CNN etc.) However, so far DMCC has not (to my knowledge) mentioned that they will soon launch their Web site.

If for any reason the DMCC couldn’t manage to at least get a basic “brochure” page up on the Web immediately (and I can’t imagine why they couldn’t), then they really should have mentioned to the press that their site was coming – and publicized that URL.

Looking at news reports from yesterday and today, the appearance created is that DMCC simply didn’t bother to put up a Web site – and that journalists didn’t bother to ask about it. A disconcerting message either way I look at it.

Apparently the DMCC site will be online before the group makes its big official announcement in a press conference at 8am eastern time tomorrow (June 16) at the National Press Club.

…When I realized how much the immediate absence of a DMCC site bugged me, right from the first moments I heard about the group, it occurred to me how much my own perceptions of credibility have shifted since the advent of the Internet.

I’m a journalist by training, experience, and inclination. I like the news media, and I treasure it. I also am fully aware of its shortcomings. I respect that the news media plays a crucial role in providing vital information and context. However, I don’t think the news media should ever be the sole source of information on any topic – especially on such important topics as national security. Not even for a day or two.

I believe that in order for people to make fully informed decisions, they should be able to consult original sources of information – directly, easily, and immediately. They shouldn’t have to rely solely on the interpretations of various news outlets, not even temporarily. The Web makes such direct outreach possible, and it no longer presents unfeasible barriers of technology or cost. There is no excuse for any organization to NOT have a Web site, not for a minute – even if it’s just a text-only page. And no, posting a press release via an online service does not suffice.

In fact, I believe the Web has evolved into such a key role in our society that even a temporary lack of a Web presence is likely to generate suspicion and confusion – especially among those opinion leaders (individuals in a community whose attitudes influence those of the citizenry at large) who are so ardently targeted by public relations campaigns.

I look forward to seeing the DMCC’s site – and I do hope it arrives before their press conference tomorrow.

3 thoughts on Web Credibility: Speak for Yourself BEFORE the Media Speak for You

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  1. Now not using the web to communicate is suspicious
    This piece on the Contentious blog is so true Here’s one interesting way the Internet has altered my perception of legitimacy: As far as I’m concerned, credible, serious organizations have Web sites that explain who they are and offer all