Archive for 2011

Journalists vs Analysts

Posted in Web2.0 Productivity with tags , , , , , , , , on August 31, 2011 by Lance Strzok

I get the impression that a lot of analysts try to be journalists, and it got me thinking that maybe the road ahead is to actually make journalists within the IC.

How do analysts differ from journalists? The most obvious differences are level of knowledge on a subject, and objectivity. It is my beliefthat most analysts are pretty deep in tbrms of knowledge with respect to the subject matter they write on, and as human nature would have it, they are pretty attJched to their judgments on the things that they write about and don’t necessarily seek out others to collaborate with or open theclselves up to disagreement.

Journalists on the other hand, appear to me to be openly shallow in most subject areas that th~y write on when compared to analysts,but they seem more ethically bound to deliver balanced reporting on a subject after interviewing various analysts and SME’s for onions on the matter from various angles. In this way, the various sides of the story, and the drivers and stakeholders all get some kind of view represented in the report. (Want to highlight a little with respect tel differing motives and abilities here, depth of knowledge differences, motives differences, and objectivity or cognitive dissonance impacts as well as how each potential role might yield a different result).

So taking much of what I mention above as true, I ask, “what if the Ie had journalists that were directed to write reports, with deadlines, and had to find and interview analysts across the Ie, DoD, legal, state, local, academic, and others areas in order to more fully cover a topic? That would leave more emphasis properly placed on analysts to do their job of maintaining facts and forming and defending positions, rather then writing reports and adding to the noise. In addition to this, it would tend to have a positive influence on relationships between analysts an their willingness to collaborate when they start to see the influence that their argument held up, or not, who agreed with them, who did not and why. All these are good things in my mind and might alleviate some of the agency vs agency stuff that seems to eat away at the collective effort.
Now I believe that we have the tools to author joint products, like Living Intelligence, Intellipublia, and more, but how we would task this group of Ie level Journalists is another matter to consider. I am less certain about a common tasking system that would allow the head of the journalists to direct efforts against stories in a way that would meet intelligence requirements of all those that are submitting Intelligence requirements to different requirements processes. That being said, if we were going to make this group of journalists, then we could ptobably set up some folks that know how to direct this kind of activity and are familiar with the groups out there, and the general types of requirements that are needed such that they could direct journalists to meet them.

So in short, there would be analysts, sme’s and journalists. A directing mechanism for the journalists that takes input from key stakeholders, and a truly joint product that woul:d have the names of the analysts and agencies that contributed to them, thereby reducing the number of redundant reports that are created, and fostering the kind of collaboration and solid products that I believe we should be creating as a community.
I would think that creating this group and giving them the charter and responsibilities to do this job would be more likely than analysts all across the community getting reallylgood at collaborating and sharing in that way that we have hoped. Again, the difference in motivation and bias may be slowing or preventing the achievement of the environment we are trying to create.

Cheers!
Please let me know what you think.
Lance.

Some responses from another area are below.

(Reader 1) I read a lot of topical blogs written by journalists, and I have say for many of them, I hold their analysis in higher esteem
than much of what I read in finished intelligence. Now, journalists are just as capable of having biases, but most of
them state it up front, or you can tell it by whom they are writing for. I think professional journalists are better at writing a tight storyline, keeping to the narrative, and in many cases offer interesting insights that many others would miss.

(Reader 2) I have to respectfully disagree. Some contemporary journalists seem to publish opinion pieces under the heading of articles. I have seen instances that present as the journalist going into the process of reporting with their own agenda instead of being objective. In this age of computers and instant gratification it also seems in trying to reduce the reporting to the short time span it’s presented in, the message is often distorted or lost entirely. The dearth of print media and conglomeration of newspapers further reduces the impact of responsible journalism. I am not saying this is necessarily the fault of the journalist, it’s the just the system they are forced to operate within. Don’t get me wrong, there are responsible journalists out there but there are many sloppy ones as well.
So too is the analyst field. But this is a problem of our own making. For too many years the attitude of “knowledge is
power” and each agency’s artificial stovepiping discouraged the sharing of information. This attitude became ingrained
and as we all know it is hard to change as human nature, as well as corporate mindset attests. As a result the problem
becomes not so much as how to share but in finding out who is working on what. Reinventing the wheel became
commonplace,. Then too the lack of social media skills among the older generation of analysts further compounded the
porblem.
But programs like this blog for example s~gnal a change in direction. Education is the key. The newer analysts are more
comfortable using social media in their daily life so it translates easily into their analytical practices. Now it is a matter of
“advertising” who is doing what in the various agencies so that connections can be made between analysts. In addition, no
competent analyst should be producing arliyfinished intelligence without it being vetted. This is just common sense in my opinion. Are we going to have an opinio~? Yes. Are we going to possibly resent criticism? Again, yes. This is human
nature. I truly believe the vast majority0tanalysts today get the fact that producing for production’s sake is not
appropriate. We hopefully realize each intlividual is ultimately responsible for each and every call and their decision could ultimately affect the very lives of the indiliduals using it. I would hope they would do their very best and ensure it is the most accurate infonnationlanalysis possib e. Bottom line if you are putting your name to it, don’t you want to make sure you get it right?

(Reader 3) Interesting thoughts, Lance.
Reminds me of the mix between bloggers and what they call “Developer Advocates” or what not in the software world. As
this whole Internet-hosted, “cloud” and Iaas/Paas/Saas thing has taken off, there’s a lot more direct interaction between a
company and an individual delevoper.
So where you previously had tech Journalists reporting at magazines like Dr. Dobbs, and then tech bloggers like
TechCrunch, ReadWriteWeb, etc, you nor also have people working at cloud hosting companies that write articles or
screencasts on what their company provides.
I guess they are technically marketing/sales folks, but they are similar to a cross between a journalist and an analyst in that they might not be a SME, but they aren’t teallY just offering quick/shallow news articles, either.
Personally, from my limited viewpoint, I itill don’t really care for this idea of news-reporting style analysis, where an
article comes, goes and never gets update1 or pointed to again and that’s where LivingJntcJ really seems like a great idea.
But I can definitely see the need for someone who acts a a go-between for analysts who are too busy/too involved to sit
and chat it out with others every day, or ate naturally better at quiet thinking and research, versus interviewing or
collaborating across issues.
That’s why I dropped out of my own journalism ideals back in college – trying to get people to talk to me was a pain (and
scared me), whereas messing with a computer was a whole lot easier.

(Reader 4) +1 to james. Saying analysts need to be more like journalists in order to incorporate more balance is like saying chocolate needs to be more like vanilla in order to be more chocolatey.

(Reader 5) It is my belief that most analysts are pret deep in terms of knowledge with respect to the subject matte’ they write on” Man, I would love to work where you work.