Friday, February 11, 2005

Your blog, your way -- unless you'd rather keep your job

If you didn't see my post about this whiny blogger who got fired for writing mean things about his employer, check it out and you'll know why this article in Monday's Christian Science Monitor caught my eye. To hear this reporter tell it, there's a veritable pandemic of innocent bloggers being given their walking papers by cruel and unreasonable employers.

But read closely. Maybe these bloggers weren't so "innocent", after all:
Suffering from "pure boredom" while working as a
features writer for a North Carolina newspaper,
Rachel Mosteller began keeping an online journal.
Anonymously, with names changed to protect the
guilty, she chronicled the people who inhabit just
about any newsroom - the foul-mouthed female
reporter, the chubby sportswriter, the co-worker
who hoards the free books sent in by publishers
seeking reviews. But her blog, called the
"Sarcastic Journalist," didn't stay secret for long.
Her bosses found out last year, and Ms. Mosteller,
eight months pregnant at the time, promptly
found herself sacked.

Guess you weren't all that "anonymous" after all, were you, sweetheart? And you made the people at your paper look like jerks. Not exactly professional behavior, was it? I'd have fired you, too.

The article presents four other examples clearly intended to make our blood boil with outrage. Let's consider them:

1. The guy who was blogging on company time and on the company computer deserved to be fired, I don't care what he was writing about. They weren't paying you for blogging, bud.

2. When the flight attendant posed for "sexy" photos while wearing her Delta uniform, she was representing the company. I'd have fired her, too, for making it look like Delta's flight attendants are just a step up from porn queens. Dress or undress as you like and take erotic pictures until your camera melts, but don't make Delta's flight attendants ashamed to wear their uniforms.

3. When one blogger discussed her company's "technical problems" online, she betrayed professional confidences and undermined the company's reputation. Talk about stupid. She's lucky they're not suing her. Next case!

4. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch features writer who dissed his paper's quality was obviously not a team player. And his bosses didn't fire him -- he quit after they found out about the unflattering comments in his blog. Good riddance!

Even the title of the CSM article annoyed me: Office Memo: 'Blogging' can get you bounced. Come on. It's not blogging that's getting these nitwits bounced. They're free to blog to their hearts' content. On their own time. On their own computers. And as long as they're not harming their employer's reputations.

Do I sound just a tad unsympathetic? Oh, I hope not. What I am trying to convey is that I am extremely unsympathetic. Bloggers who get fired under these circumstances like to yammer about being denied their freedom of speech, but, hey -- employers have rights, too, and they don't have to continue writing paychecks to lowlifes who take the money and then tell the world what lousy bosses they have.

I have yet to hear of a single case where a blogger was fired solely for expressing an opinion that his employer disagreed with. If anyone can find a story about a blogger who was not posting on company time, or from a company-owned computer, and who was not revealing company secrets or trashing his or her employer's reputation, but merely blogging about something his bosses didn't like, send me a link. I'm interested.


Susan Kaye said...

Disclaimer: I work at home and recieve no paycheck so my blogging goes unfettered. Well, that's not precisely true. By nature I am very careful about how I say things. Were I were a working blogger, and a fiction writer, I would look upon it as a challenge to still kvetch and keep myself employed.

McVane said...

Small Blue Thing said...

Brenda, notice, please that if you don't commit any offence, you have the right of speaking! As an American, I guess this is the main Legacy of Democracy.

I started my blog to cure myself of many things _including a rape. If my raper reads my blogg, if everything runs like the fired guy, I could be inprisoned. I have no evidences of the event. But I was raped. I did. So what? Do that person can really imprisoning me?


Brenda Coulter said...

Mali, I checked out your link, and it's just another Guardian article about Joe Gordon, the former bookseller I wrote about in this post on January 13.

Mr. Gordon wrote nasty things about his boss and his employer. When he was fired for that, he and his friends argued that his blog was "private".

A blog is not private. Posting on a blog is not the same as talking with friends over a beer in a pub. Mr. Gordon was not keeping a private journal or having private conversations, but publishing his words on the internet in hopes that a wide audience would read it. And in that public forum he was badmouthing his boss and his employer.

Waterstone's did not violate his rights. They were the injured party.

But I'm glad you sent that link, Mali, because the article contains a great quote from Simon Waldman, Guardian Unlimited's head of digital publishing:

"My view is pretty simple - there are two things that staff shouldn't do when blogging (and I include myself in this): project the company in a bad light or give away confidential information. There's nothing new there. They are pretty standard - and I'd hope clearly understood - conditions of employment. What is new is that, given the characteristics of the net (instant/global/permanent), both the good and harm that can potentially be done to a company by staff blogging is exponentially greater than anything that has gone before."

Absolutely. You can blog about your job as long as you talk nice and don't give away information you're privy to simply because you're an employee. And just make sure you're not blogging on company time or company computers.

Brenda Coulter said...

Blue Thing, I was very sorry to read that you had endured such a tragedy. My heart goes out to you!

Small Blue Thing said...

No, please, be quiet. I've passed over it _at least I like to think like I was. Seriously, no matter, but thank you :)

What I wanted to say is to notice you the quite thin red line between privacy and publicity, between rights and tasks. Very old question, I guess...

I have read the Christian Science Monitor article, and I find many points of agreement. I only disagree in one of them _if you're REALLY bored (and it's not because of your reasons for getting such a job like yours), something's wrong. When I worked as staff writer for a Charity Foundation here in Spain, I had to stay at the office two or three hours after my tasks were over. My head office came from Accenture Spain and they were used to spend her whole life at the office... So what? Face the Absurdity or keep my _loved_ job? I chose the second option. I had to obbey... and I spent the extra time in silence, writing stories and scripts. I had preferred stay at office only to make my tasks _one day more than 8 hours, maybe; but the other only the usual journey. But that wasn't the question.

But the fact was who stole the first? I was steeling my office's resources, and I'm no proud of it at all _I gave up and I got out of there to teach and write for freelance. But they stole my rights at first. It was a contract for work, nor for my life.

I must confess I have not read our english fried blog, but I guess these things may be only one point of the question in a Firing Matter... You know, the last chance to decide if you're in or out your job.

Blue Thing

Small Blue Thing said...

Hi again,
I've got some views about the matter in ALT404, a mexican blog in spanish. If you can find a fast translation, it's very interesting _specially the comments. I also may translate them for you, in some weeks.