Saturday, September 12, 2009

Advice to a friend ....

While I was deployed back in JAN, I was enjoying an afternoon coffee with a couple of NGO reps I had been working with when the subject came around to some mutual acquantances we had in our little corner of the war (BTW, do you know that the key to the non-military success in the Long War is mostly on the shoulders of 30-something females? In case you didn't know, its true).

Anyway, as our names started to overlap, I asked them, "Have you worked with "X"? I ran into her yesterday at lunch and played catch up...."

I stopped at that point as they both looked at each other, paused, and the older of the two said,
"Yea, I've know her since 2003, and wouldn't put too much faith in what she says now. She has lost most of her objectivity. She started out wanting to tell the story, but that soon morphed into wanting to be part of the story. If she isn't name dropping to silence others, she is trying to influence policy in areas she really doesn't know as much about as she thinks. She has become too close to some of the players to see clearly the full picture.
Sure, I run into her now and then - but I keep it to small talk."
At that moment, I realized that they were exactly right. Our mutual acquaintance wanted to be more than she actually was - and was very good at - and it hurt her credibility and those who relied on her for objective opinions.

Reporting on things is like a moth to a flame. You can't get too close. You also need to remember that the information flow is a two way street - you are trying to get information from a person with it - and that person wants to use you to the information they want out.

When you start to act like part of their team - through either your desire to help them or a desire to keep the invites coming and therefor your access - you are reaching a point where you are no longer attached to the moorings that secured you at the start. You may be making way; but are you on ship's power or being towed?

Nothing sinister, it just is.

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