Bob Fesmire

Internet Powered Citizen Journalism

Bob and Gina Fesmire of Sunnyvale are the driving force behind the web site, created in May of this year in response to the
lack of media attention in this country to a series of leaked British government
documents that shed light on the Bush administration's intentions for war with Iraq.
The documents include minutes from a meeting between British Prime Minister
Tony Blair and his top aides in July of 2002 (8 months before the war began)
discussing talks with Bush administration officials about Iraq. The web site has
become a phenomenal sparking point for expanding awareness about the
memo and providing a place where citizens can voice their concerns.

Bob will describe how he and Gina went from being persons interested in the
lack of media coverage about the memo to citizen journalists using the power
of the internet to escalate the awareness of what could turn out to be proof that
the Bush administration lied about its intentions and fabricated the case for war.

Bob began his talk by explaining that the Downing Street Memo website had been his wife's idea while he was away on a business trip. She had been one of the bloggers that exposed the Jeff Gannon story, so she knew something about how blogging worked. Also, being a Silicon Valley website designer, it was not hard for her to build the site. After getting the idea, she quickly found out that the Downing Street Memo address was available and snapped it up. When Bob got home from the trip he found the thing was already going.

The website basically started as the text of the Downing Street Memo, essentially the minutes of a meeting between senior staff in the British Government after the Foreign Secretary came back from Washington with news that the Bush Administration felt that war with Iraq was inevitable, despite their public pronouncements that it was "a last resort". Since then they have added a lot of supporting material. The authors try to keep a balanced journalistic tone, so that viewers can read it with an open mind.

The first big surge of hits came when Tom Tomorrow linked to it from his blog. Then there were a series of mentions on other sites, the peak of which was "the Krugman moment", when a mention in Paul Krugmans column got the site 70,000 hits in a single day. During that timeframe it seemed like everybody wanted to talk to them. There were several articles about the site in the mainstream press. Things have calmed down a lot since then.

For Bob, the whole thing has been a lesson about what the media can and can't do. The deafening silence about the Downing Street Memo was partly caused by the fact that there were no reporters available to cover it. In April he googled "Downing Street Memo" and found most of the hits were letters to the editor asking for the subject to be covered. He remembers visiting the NBC building in San Jose and finding out it was mostly just empty. His solution is for citizen media to play a bigger role in our public debate, going forward from now.

During Q&A a lot of other points came up:

Bob's family background is essentially Republican/Libertarian-ish. This experience has been his introduction to liberal politics, and he was surprised by what he saw. For example, at the Downing Street Memo town hall meeting in Oakland there were many people that made political statements during Q&A that had nothing to do with the topic, and didn't even end in questions.

Bob's boss has no problem with his journalism hobby, but senior executives at the company expressed some displeasure about it. However, the company's ethics department said it was fine. He has avoided mentioning where he works, and that has kept the complaints down.

The site has now gotten about 700,000 hits. During June the average was 10,000 per day. During July it was more like 2,000 per day, and now it is about 1,000 per day. However, the amount of time the average visitor spends at the site has gone up, so that now the average visitor spends at least a couple of minutes there. costs $19.95 per month to keep on the air. There were some additional startup costs, but it was all easy to afford.

For more information, please visit

Tian Harter