October 2001

From the Director

CIDMIconNewsletter JoAnn Hackos, CIDM Director

Dear Friends,

September 11, 2001, another day that “will live in infamy,” to paraphrase Franklin Roosevelt. I am writing this at the end of a terrible week for everyone in the world who values human life and freedom. Through it all, Bill Hackos, Tina Hedlund, and I have spent hours on the phone with United Airlines rebooking our flights to Europe. Our goal-to ensure that terrorism does not keep us from our commitments to our friends and customers. We hope that everyone feels the same toward our community of professional colleagues. Those colleagues have emailed and called from around the world to express their shock, concern, and hope that all of us will recover and learn from a heart-wrenching experience. Many have written to say that they themselves survived in New York City. As of this writing, of course, the stories have yet to be told.

At the beginning of the Clinton administration (1992), Clinton made what proved an unsuccessful appointment for attorney general. The candidate was political scientist, Lani Guanier. She had a concept of community that is worth considering. She reminds us that our founding fathers defined community as neighborhoods. People were joined by physical proximity, presumably to a common cause. Hence, we elect officials based on geographic locations-towns, cities, and states. As neighbors, we are supposed to have like interests.

What Guanier pointed out from her research is that physical proximity today is not a good measure of common interest. Few of us are farmers; we rarely live anymore in small, isolated towns. Our common interests transcend geographic limits. Our colleagues, friends, and family are worldwide. Especially from a professional perspective, we need to build a global community of like-minded individuals. Guanier suggested that people might vote, in the future, in communities of mutual interest. Those of us who focus on communication belong to a community of interest.

The basic, underlying goal of our professional community is to promote excellence in communication. Be certain to read the article in this issue on our definition of excellence (see the Industry Survey: Documentation Excellence Survey Analysis).

Developing a community of professional communicators, committed to best practices, was my foundational goal for the CIDM. In the past three years, I have seen such a community slowly emerging. In preparation for the October Best Practices Conference, our amazing leaders have enthusiastically devoted critical time to building a great program. Others have worked hard to find the funds needed to sustain the organization. Still others have learned that they can call on expert colleagues to help solve difficult problems. At the 2000 Huntington Beach conference, the gatherings, lunches, dinners, and just talk showed that members were building personal friendships.

How can we use our worldwide professional community to change the way people communicate? The events of the last few weeks have demonstrated vividly that communication is perhaps the most critical component of world peace. A lack of understanding of people who represent different cultures, languages, and religions breeds hatred. Our role as professional communicators must be to promote understanding.

You know that we talk a lot about understanding our customers. For many of you, customer understanding is of highest importance. I believe the same to be true in our global community. By teaching and promulgating the skills we have in understanding how people communicate, we can contribute to building an international community where understanding is more important than fear.

If you have thoughts to share with members of our community of professional communicators, please post them to the best practices listserv at