Treasury's Geithner meets with bloggers
Last week, U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner sat down for closed-door meetings with some of the nation's most influential voices in economic regulation and policymaking: bloggers.
Treasury spokesman Andrew Williams said in an interview that Geithner has long been following the online discussion among bloggers. When Geithner was at the New York Federal Reserve, he asked his staff to compile a daily compendium on what was being said in the blogosphere.
So when Geithner took the top job at Treasury, the natural next step seemed to be to begin direct conversations with some of them.
"It has become clear that financial bloggers are influential over reporters so there's some sort of link there. They are often subject matter experts," Williams said.
Williams said the discussion during the blogger gatherings is different from roundtables with traditional media outlets in that "they are looking more beyond the immediate news cycle." "They are more frequently conversations that are more theoretical and long-term," he said.
Some bloggers have become regulars at the meetings, which the Treasury Department has been holding for about a year. Others have expressed surprise to have been invited at all.
"This time we even had someone write us an email saying, 'Don't you know who I am? Because I've been pretty critical. Do you really want me to come?' Williams recounted.
Treasury officials responded just as pointedly: "We said sure," Williams recalled. "We're happy to talk. We don't bite."
The Commerce Department has also been reaching out to bloggers. On Aug. 5, Commerce held a blogger roundtable with Francisco J. Sánchez, undersecretary for international trade. In an email promoting the event, Commerce's public affairs team promised that "the roundtable will give you not only the opportunity to meet the Under Secretary, but to 'interview' him in a conversational, relaxed environment that will provide an insider's angle and unique perspective." In case you missed it, note that the word "interview" was in quotes.
Bloggers John Lounsbury, Mike Konczal and Steven Randolph Waldman were mostly positive about the Treasury meeting they attended on Monday.
Lounsbury, a certified financial planner in Clayton, N.C. who contributes to the blog SeekingAlpha, recounted that the Monday meeting ran for more than two hours. In addition to Geithner, Michael Barr, assistant secretary for financial institutions, and Matthew Kabaker, deputy assistant secretary for capital markets, also attended.
"It was more like a brainstorming session and ideas were flying around the room in a very stimulating way...A number of guests raised confrontational topics and some defensiveness by Treasury officials did occur, but my impression was that defensiveness was limited and open exchange occurred."
"Geithner is very smart and personable, and it was very useful to chat with Treasury officials on background over the strengths and weaknesses of the financial reform bill."
"It is bizarro world for me to go to these things. First, let me confess right from the start, I had a great time. I pose as an outsider and a crank. But when summoned to the court, this jester puts on his bells. I am very, very angry at Treasury, and the administration it serves. But put me at a table with smart, articulate people who are willing to argue but who are otherwise pleasant towards me, and I will like them."
Yves Smith at Naked Capitalism was less enthusiastic. She wasn't so sure what the Treasury team was up to with the blogger confabs.
"One has to think they anticipate that, which then begs the question of what they expect to accomplish with these meetings. We aren't journalists, so the access card does not work; the infrequency and format of these sessions means they don't build personal rapport (and there are good reasons why not; from our end, it costs time and money to go to DC; from their end, we aren't important enough to warrant more frequent contact). So they may have other motivations, but a safe assumption is that they regard this as marketing..."
Here's the complete list of bloggers who attended the two sessions last week--the first was for "non-salaried" bloggers who are not affiliated with media outlets and the second for those who are.
Monday, Aug. 16
George Mason University professors Tyler Cowen and Alex Tabarrock, whose brainy blog Marginal Revolution's has an eye-popping 181,000 RSS subscribers, according to Google Reader
Philip Royston Davis who publishes the popular Phil's Stock World and blogs at Seeking Alpha
Michael Thomas Konczal, a fellow at the Roosevelt Institute, whose blog at
Rortybomb has become to must-read for those interested in financial reform
"Yves Smith" - Susan Elizabeth Webber, a founder of Aurora Advisors, a New York-based management consulting firm, who is known for her thorough dissection of economic issues on the Naked Capitalism blog
John Lounsbury, a certified financial planner in Clayton, N.C. whose thoughtful commentary is read by 50,000 regular followers on the blog SeekingAlpha
Steven Randolph Waldman, whose critical blog posts at Interfluidity about Treasury have been influencing the debate over how Geithner has handled the bailout
Wednesday, Aug. 18
Mike Allen, Politico
Nicholas Ascher Baumann, Mother Jones
Richard Eskow, OurFuture
Tim Fernholz, American Prospect
Ezra Klein, Washington Post
Shahien Nasiripour, Huffington Post
Felix Salmon, Reuters
Derek Thompson, The Atlantic
Ariana Eunjung Cha
August 27, 2010; 12:58 PM ET
Categories: U.S. Treasury
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