5 Questions with Peter Stinson of An Unofficial Coast Guard Blog

Another in our series of interviews with the men and women who blog about the U.S. Coast Guard.

This week we hear from Peter Stinson the lead blogger at An Unofficial Coast Guard Blog. Unlike may bloggers, Peter is Coast Guard friendly, yet not afraid to ask the tough questions.

Here’s 5 questions with Peter Stinson.

1. Why did you first start blogging about the Coast Guard?

A. I’ve been blogging steadily since September 2003. I read an article in the HARVARD BUSINESS REVIEW that piqued my curiousity about blogging and the power of personal and organizational Internet publishing. My first post about the Coast Guard was September 26, 2003, when I posted “Demonstrated leadership in the Coast Guard: Or is that a demonstrated lack of leadership in the Coast Guard?” at http://tinyurl.com/2f577n. I still hadn’t really learned the ins and outs of blogging when I wrote this post; reading it now, it’s clear that I had a bitter taste in my mouth. Anyway, I wrote about the Coast Guard, then and in the months following, because it’s what I know. I’ve been associated with the Coast Guard for my entire adult life. When I teach writing, I always tell students to “start with what you know.” The Coast Guard is a large hunk of what I know, so it made sense that posts would start to take on Coast Guard issues. I started AN UNOFFICIAL COAST GUARD BLOG about a year ago after receiving substantial negative feedback about my blogging about Coast Guard topics.

2. What is your vision for An Unofficial Coast Guard Blog?

A. As we note on our masthead, “Our focus here at AN UNOFFICIAL COAST GUARD BLOG is to provide insightful (we hope) commentary and opinion about the goings-on in the Coast Guard. We’ll do some straight news perhaps, but not what you’ll find either in the Coast Guard’s public affairs machine or from the mainstream media.” My hope would be that we can offer insight and discourse not found elsewhere.

3. What kind of reaction have you received from Coast Guard community, either officially or unofficially?

A. Oh, you would ask this question. As you know, reactions from members of the Coast Guard has been mixed, at best.

Before AN UNOFFICIAL COAST GUARD BLOG, when I was posting everything at my TIDEWATER MUSINGS, I received some substantial heat following a post about the MSST and DOG communities. In the post, I took information available open source and then prognosticated. Seems my prognosticating was enough to piss some people off. Several senior Coast Guard officers attempted to influence my posting by working through my chain of command as a reservist and my chain of command as a civilian employee.

My Reserve chain of command folded like a house of cards built on a beach during a hurricane. No spine. No backbone. No understanding of transparency. No realization that what I do in my own time is my own time. I was strongly counseled and within weeks no longer a drilling reservist. Some people would suggest that my transfer to the Standby Reserve had nothing to do with my blogging activities. Perhaps it was all a remarkable coincidence. Then again…

My chain of command as a civilian employee stood firm and rebuffed the various arrows being launched my way. I was counseled, but it was a counseling session much more focused on strong leadership and personal/professional development: “Don’t violate confidences; think before you post.” I wasn’t told to stop (as the other chain had done); I wasn’t told to ratchet back. Indeed, I think the O-6 took heat I never heard about. All in all, I thought the feedback from that chain of command was appropriate.

As a matter of fact, the creation of AN UNOFFICIAL COAST GUARD BLOG was in direct reaction to the counsel and actions by that other chain of command. Frankly, it was started in spite. “You don’t want me blogging about the Coast Guard, well, take this.” Had I been treated with respect and intelligence, I never would have created AN UNOFFICIAL COAST GUARD BLOG. Because those leaders felt a need to ratchet things up, I responded by “going full bore.”

Since creating AN UNOFFICIAL COAST GUARD BLOG, I’ve received no formal counsel or reaction, although during his visit in December, it was clear that Admiral Allen swings by on occasion to read our posts.

4. In October you started CGMS.CGBlog.org. Are you considering any other changes or additions to CGBlog?

A. Actually, the CGMS site was more Ryan’s idea, I think. But, it’s a solid idea, and one that is desperately needed. Why the Coast Guard hasn’t created a full bore message site, and a full bore news site, is beyond me. Frankly, I’d love it if the Coast Guard would automate the Internet release of official messages so we could either close the CGMS site or just have it automatically update with RSS input. (Ed. Note: last week, after our interview, the Coast Guard did just this with a revamping of their homepage and the addition of a page with all messages with internet release authorized.)

As to other changes, I don’t see any at the moment; if we see a need, we’ll certainly consider addressing it. I’d offered Eric Shine a subdomain on cgblog.org so he could have his own blog rather than posting his rants as comments, but I don’t think he wants to take me up on that.

I would like to see other partner sites, such as CG News and CG Clips, link up. Not that we all need to use the cgblog.org domain, but that we create a presence that is linked and strategic in nature. Everybody has their niches, and I’d like to see us capitalize on that in a strategic manner.

5. Is there anything you would like to say to the readers of Coast Guard News?

A. Drop by to visit AN UNOFFICIAL COAST GUARD BLOG, and subscribe to our content by RSS or email; provide us feedback at Should Do This.

If you blog about the Coast Guard, or know someone who does, send us the blog address and we’ll try to arrange an interview with them. Our address is CoastGuardNews@gmail.com.

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