A Short Goodby
September 27, 2004 7:00 AM   Subscribe

A short goodby. A memo received by a blogger/journalist. Is this in any way typical? Can we find out who or what it concerns?
posted by donfactor (28 comments total)
Seems reasonable to me, and it seems like the blogger in question thinks it's reasonable, as well.

I sooooo want to blog about my job, but I resist. I get to do some pretty interesting stuff, and talk to some damned interesting people, and I think my audience would like to hear about it. But I don't want to receive a letter like that one, so I keep quiet.
posted by MrMoonPie at 7:06 AM on September 27, 2004

Agreed MoonPie. Seems reasonable enough until you get to this paragraph.

Editorial staffers who have their own Web sites, blogs or chat rooms must notify their newspaper editor of the existence and the address of these Web publications. Staff members and correspondents agree that ----- Newspapers can access and review these personal Web sites, blogs or chat rooms at any time. Editorial staffers will, when requested to do so, provide reasonable assistance to ----- Newspapers in retrieving any archived or deleted materials from such Web sites, blogs or chat rooms.

So even when he abides by the new policy and only works on his own site after work hours, he still has to provide the URL? Fuck that very much.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 7:11 AM on September 27, 2004

Where's the problem? Seems clear enough, and reasonable enough. If he wants to be a blogger and keep that editors job he'll just have to join in on a community blog.

This is only as unfair as companies excluding their staff from promotions and competitions.
posted by DrDoberman at 7:12 AM on September 27, 2004

It sucks, but he's made his stand: he's a journalist first and a blogger second.

Good call. Good journalists with any ethical code are not only a noble and ever-more-necessary breed, but they're becoming rarer and rarer, and I'm glad he chose not to muck with his work.

Sucks about the blog. Really. But I understand his decision.
posted by chicobangs at 7:19 AM on September 27, 2004

More on the author:

posted by KevinSkomsvold at 7:22 AM on September 27, 2004

That's part of the code you have to live by as a newspaper journalist. I was in the game before the Internet age, but we were similarly prohibited by unwritten code from writing letters to the editor for the same reason, journalistic objectivity (to whatever extent that's possible). Reasonable policy. My pseudonym when writing letters to the editor was "Buck Sloane."

It took me less than a minute to find his name on the site, but as for "what it concerns," I suspect that it is what it is, a policy memo to a blogging journalist telling him to spike it, rather than a response to some post he made. Could be wrong, though
posted by planetkyoto at 7:22 AM on September 27, 2004

If anything, it makes me question the reasoning of a newspaper to allow someone with such a conservative slant to decide what news stories from what sources to use to cover any given story. I sure hope that he isn't the only one making these decisions at his paper.
posted by insomnia_lj at 7:23 AM on September 27, 2004

That's probably the main reason why news outlets have these sort of policies. They prefer their biases to be hidden.
posted by eatitlive at 7:39 AM on September 27, 2004

I'm just curious how one "retrieves any archived or deleted materials" from a chat room.
posted by Remy at 7:49 AM on September 27, 2004

That's probably the main reason why news outlets have these sort of policies. They prefer their biases to be hidden.

posted by eustacescrubb at 8:01 AM on September 27, 2004

The paper's policies are a little draconian, they have no legal right to check up on what their employees are doing in their free time (so long as those activities aren't robbing the company blind).

It won't get challenged though because the incidents like these are few and far between so far.

The day is drawing nearer when all companies will have policies and procedures for blogging. I'm not looking forward to it but have come to accept that its inevitable.
posted by fenriq at 8:16 AM on September 27, 2004

Great blog. Thanks for the connection.
posted by semmi at 8:21 AM on September 27, 2004

its all bullshit. the smarmy bigwigs who own the newspaper (any newspaper) engage in blatant slanting and outright propoganda every single day. 'committment to fairness' my grizzled pink ass! yesterday our local birdcage liner editor indulged himself in a 5000 word self-important whappa-thon regarding the absence of political stickers on the cars of newspaper employees. it was enough to make you puke. the fatcat parochial bastards routinely frame every story from a conservative slant - thier coverage of last years michael moore appearance consisted of mentioning that he was in town, critiqueing the fashion sense and grooming of those who attended, followed by nasty remarks alleging poor personal hygeine practices on the part of mr. moore uttered by the local republican party chairperson (a scion of the amway theft empire.)

i can't beleive someone in this thread mentioned a "code" of "journalism". grow up. personal use of the internet threatens the status quo in society - THAT, not some ficticious ethics, is what drives these things. it's plainly corporate power looking out for itself, silencing you and claiming it's for the greater good of society.
posted by quonsar at 8:32 AM on September 27, 2004

If this policy means that you shouldn't be running your own blog on company time, and that people who are identifiable editorial staff members can't muddy pools by showing biases that could be used against the paper, then it all seems quite reasonable.

But that isn't quite what the policy says. It requires prior approval for any web site -- a site of family pictures primarily intended for granny to see, or something hobby related included.

The idea that journalists need prior approval of management before conducting their private lives seems a little creepy. Not writing letters to the editor may have been covered by prior codes of conduct, having to ask before you give a career day talk about being a journalist to your child's 3rd grade class probably wouldn't.
posted by Quinbus Flestrin at 8:58 AM on September 27, 2004

The BBC don't try to stop John Simpson publishing books which contain plenty of insight and opinion. But then they trust him not to cross lines. It's always tragic when employers don't trust their employees.
posted by nthdegx at 9:15 AM on September 27, 2004

Software developers are generally prohibited from working on side projects.

I don't know about lawyers or stockbrokers, but I do know that you don't hire someone on the basis of some open-source work he's done, which happens all the time, and then force him to stop. I've worked for four software companies, and all four of them have allowed their employees to work on outside projects on their own time. One even permitted employees to use company equipment for this, as long as it was outside of normal business hours.
posted by kindall at 9:26 AM on September 27, 2004

Quinbus, nicely stated, that's about what I was trying to say but munged it up.
posted by fenriq at 9:27 AM on September 27, 2004

Quonsar, you're right in that ethics didn't drive the paper to issue the C&D order. But ethics, it seems, convinced this guy to agree with it.

I don't agree with his personal slant, and yes, journalism is a muddy pool these days, but anyone who even pretends to hew to the code (and yes, Virginia, there is a code) gets a certain amount of respect.

The paper's language is pretty invasive, though, and if he ever decides to start the blog up again under a better-hidden pseudonym, I hope he's prepared to fight the non-journalistic parts of the agreement on their own terms.

('committment to fairness' my grizzled pink ass!
Q, maybe it's time to remove that fish.)

posted by chicobangs at 9:43 AM on September 27, 2004

What Quinbus said.
posted by Zurishaddai at 11:10 AM on September 27, 2004

Quonsar: Sounds like high time for you to start your own newspaper that doesn't have any slant. Why don't you try reporting fairly on every issue that comes up.

Let's face it: We all have biases. Every single one of us has a slant of some sort. Heck, even I have a slant, and I went through two years of journalism training and that was specifically designed to help eliminate the slant that young reporters have.

Insomnia, that's his own biases and it's up to him to be professional enough to set them aside when he's making news decisions. Also, I don't think your judgmenta is a good one to apply ... 99% of our society is more conservative than the people that hang out here at MeFi.

There is an informal 'code' that journalists are supposed to live and work by. The code pushes reporters to seek out as many sides of the issue as they can find, to report those issues in witnesses' own words by using quotes and linking sentences so as to avoid any editorialization of the news, and to check facts so that they have a defense against accusations of libel and bias.
How is this code learned? That's what journalism school is for.
Journalists of every type need to separate their public lives from their private. There's no restriction in this informal code on what you do in your private life, except for the caveat that if someone tells you that they think your news coverage is biased because of a particular activity you participate in, you should examine closely whether or not you should be doing that activity and be a big enough person to stop it if necessary.
Not every journalist does this. Heck, very few do. That's why it's so awesome to see one who's capable of analyzing his life and the effects of what he's saying online and/or reporting. That attribute makes me confident of his ability to analyze the news.

My own feeling on this particular case is that I don't think it's right for the newspaper to be telling their staff this, but there is an out. Either they can go work for someone else... or, If he'd been willing to go in front of his supervisors and say, "This is my blog. It's my private life and my own opinions. I separate it from my public life as an editor of your paper by x,y,z." it might've flown. Since he didn't really separate things that well, it looks like he realized he might be in the wrong for publishing it and stopped blogging before there were questions. I do have a problem, and would have a problem as his supervisor, with his judgement in posting of the entire memo, since it's not that hard to trace back to the paper.

As an aside:
Quonsar, I don't know your background. But honestly, if you've never worked on a newspaper or worked with professional journalists, you need to STFU about bias in the media, or seek out news from sources that you consider to be less biased than the one you mentioned above and go live in your liberal happy-land. Quite honestly, you can go to hell. I apologize to everyone else for getting pissed at you about this, but you're one of the most uninformed, supercilious windbags on this site, and it finally rubbed me the wrong way.
posted by SpecialK at 1:26 PM on September 27, 2004

The guy was slamming his own company's management decisions (headlines, story placement) and his co-workers' office talk in a blog traceable to him.

Just about any company would have told him to knock it off or look for work.
posted by sacre_bleu at 1:46 PM on September 27, 2004

That policy is overly broad, overly intrusive, and overly oppressive. It also would very likely not withstand a court challenge.

But, it is very unlikely this gentleman wishes to be the test case.

They are basically saying because you work for a paper, that they own your thoughts, and all forms of expression. If he watches the wire, he would then be prohibited from voicing any opinion about any current event? Please. Anything the paper "might" write about? What's left?

Do they get to review anything you put up on Ebay? What about stuff you put in your profile on an online dating site? They sometimes ask your political leaning, which he is prohibited from discussing.

It also shows, still, a complete misunderstanding of the internet, online community, and digital information distribution. How does it matter if it is a webpage you personally maintain, or a community site?

They are basically saying "use a more obscure online persona".

The whole thing is absurd. And it is even more absurd anyone in our own digital community thinks it is "reasonable".

This is actually making me angry as I type.

Saying I cannot do it on company time or with company equipment? Acceptable.

Saying I cannot do it on my own time with my own equipment? Unacceptable. And offensive.
posted by Ynoxas at 2:36 PM on September 27, 2004

if you've never worked on a newspaper or worked with professional journalists, you need to STFU about bias in the media, or seek out news from sources that you consider to be less biased than the one you mentioned above

actually, i don't need to do any of those things, regardless of whether i've drunk your self-serving koolaid or not. i have no, zip, zero respect for "journalists", particularly those who beat their chests about "ethics". you are a bunch of whores looking for the next biggest market.
posted by quonsar at 2:49 PM on September 27, 2004

That attribute makes me confident of his ability to analyze the news.

there's your biggest problem: report. get your fucking blathering face out of the analysis. analysis is the reader's job. schmuck.
posted by quonsar at 2:52 PM on September 27, 2004

Stupid, stupid, stupid. Anyone who would agree to this no doubt bends over in all sorts of other ways as well.
posted by rushmc at 3:10 PM on September 27, 2004

Software developers are generally prohibited from working on side projects. Lawyers are asked not to hand out legal advice outside of their firm.

A journalism career is fundamentally different from either of those. It pays a lot less, for one thing, and success is heavily dependent on freelance work, which is generally obtained through "trading on" one's newspaper position. Which this policy seems to acknowledge - it doesn't place any limitations on freelancing in general. The only limitations are on Internet work - because it appears to have been written by someone who fears and misunderstands the Internet.
posted by transona5 at 3:43 PM on September 27, 2004


Yes, but we can see from what newspapers print and publish that this 'code' is garbage. Papers have resident biases and only hire people prepared to write copy that filters news through those biases.
posted by raygirvan at 4:13 PM on September 27, 2004

Besides, God forbid he actually blog with his name attached than without.
posted by calwatch at 10:22 PM on September 28, 2004

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